Southwest Tinkers With Seating

Airline will introduce boarding queue, keep free-choice seating
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 19, 2007 6:24 PM CDT

(Newser) – Southwest Airlines will keep its trademark open-seating policy but will assign a boarding order to cut down on passengers queuing up far in advance of boarding. Southwest currently boards its airplanes in a sequence of three groups, with passengers free to pick their seat. While Southwest fans enjoy the freedom, critics that have called the procedure a "cattle call."

Southwest has been testing new boarding arrangements, MarketWatch reports, in an attempt to remain competitive in an industry under siege from high oil prices and facing an aging workforce and cut-rate airlines like JetBlue and ATA. "We quickly learned that the majority of our customers did not want us to abandon our open seating," said CEO Gary Kelly.