For the past two weeks, Southwest Airlines has been experimenting with family-section seating for its flights departing from San Antonio.
For those that haven’t flown Southwest: The airline uses an “open seating” model, which means that there are no seat assignments on boarding passes. You get assigned to boarding group A, B, or C, depending on how early your check in. The A’s get to board first and choose their seats from the pick of the litter. (If you want to ensure that you get that “A” boarding pass, see here.)
There have been a few different family-boarding variants: For example, one version has the gate attendants calling up boarding group A to board first, as usual. Thereafter, families are asked to board.
In another model, one section of rows on board is “reserved” for families to sit together. (Perhaps they should call this “Mullet Seating” — business in the front, party in the rear.)
Other experimental boarding models are still pending.
The concept isn’t just designed to appeal to families traveling together. That’s a side effect. The reality is that it’s in the airline’s economic self-interest, and helps them turn planes around faster:
“The goal here is to speed up the boarding process,” [spokeswoman Brandy King] said. [...] Families that board with the last groups often are unable find adjacent seats. So flight attendants have to move some passengers around so that families can sit together. It’s a time-consuming process, King said, but it’s necessary.
But individual travelers who played by the rules to get an early-boarding pass might be ticked off that a family of six could trump their seat choice.
So the question is put to you: Is family seating a good idea or not? Should other airlines try something similar, or avoid this like the plague? Vote in the poll below, and hit the comments!
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