Why I Don't Like the Southwest Airlines Boarding Process

Why I Don't Like the Southwest Airlines Boarding Process
Photo by Miguel Ángel Sanz

When it comes to air travel, everyone has their preferences and pet peeves. For me, the bane of my flying experience is the boarding process of Southwest Airlines and their policy of not assigning seats. While some may argue that this system is efficient and even enjoyable, I find it to be an exercise in disorganization and frustration.

The Lack of Assigned Seats

Michael Barera, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

One of the primary reasons I dislike Southwest’s boarding process is the absence of assigned seats. Unlike other airlines where you can choose your seat in advance, Southwest operates on a first-come, first-served basis. This means that passengers are assigned boarding groups (A, B, or C) and a position number within that group, which determines the order in which they board the plane.

This system leads to a chaotic rush as passengers scramble to find their preferred seat. The anxiety of not knowing where you’ll sit until you’re actually on the plane can be incredibly stressful, especially for those who prefer a window or aisle seat, or need to sit with their travel companions (I'm a window seat guy). The uncertainty can make an already stressful experience even more nerve-wracking.

Abuse and Disorganized Boarding Process

The boarding process itself is a source of frustration. Passengers line up in their designated boarding groups, but the process often feels disorganized and haphazard. The lack of assigned seats means that everyone is jockeying for position, trying to ensure they get a good seat. This can lead to confusion and even conflict among passengers.

"John Wayne International Airport, Orange County, California" by Ken Lund is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Recently, there has also been an increasing issue with the abuse of Southwest’s boarding system by fake wheelchair users. Passengers who don’t genuinely need assistance are using wheelchairs to gain priority boarding, allowing them to secure their preferred seats before everyone else. This not only undermines the system but also creates additional delays and inconveniences for passengers who legitimately require assistance.

The abuse of this system is frustrating for everyone involved. It’s disheartening to see people taking advantage of a system designed to help those in need. It also adds another layer of complexity to an already chaotic boarding process, as flight attendants and ground staff have to manage the influx of passengers requiring special assistance.

Final Thoughts

While some may appreciate the unique boarding process of Southwest Airlines, I find it to be disorganized and frustrating. The lack of assigned seats, combined with the chaotic boarding process and recent abuse of the system, makes for a less than enjoyable flying experience. The ability to choose your seat in advance is a small but significant comfort that can make air travel much more pleasant. For these reasons, I’ll be sticking with airlines that offer a more traditional and orderly boarding process.

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