Southwest Airlines boarding process and flight review

I mentioned yesterday that my process of booking with Southwest through my corporate travel department was problematic. It has been better when I directly book on my own. I also mentioned that they have an excellent short haul economy class product. Today, I want to focus on something different- the boarding process. 

On Southwest, you board by number and pick any spot on the plane. That results in standing in line and others looking at your boarding pass to make sure you are in the right place. It always feels odd to me to share my boarding pass with a complete stranger who is a fellow passenger.

Once on board, you select any open seat. That is why it is so important to have a good boarding position- that is the only way to avoid a middle seat between two sumo wrestlers. In theory, you can take any open seat. In practice, however, that isn’t how it works. People routinely save seats for those with let boarding positions. If you are saving a seat for someone traveling with you who is on a different reservation, that’s fine. I suspect, however, that this is frequently the result of people wanting an empty seat next to them. From a practical standpoint, it also makes it very hard to know where I can sit without upsetting another passenger.

I will say that Southwest does a remarkable job of loading planes efficiently and getting them out on time. I don’t care for their boarding process, but then again, somehow it works. They are also working on upgrading the options available on some of their planes. While this was an older plan clearly designed for shorter flights, many of their planes are now wifi enabled and offer entertainment options at reasonable prices:

Entertainment options on Southwest
Entertainment options on Southwest

I don’t know that to be worth it for the 45 minute flights I was on, but it is still a good option for many situations. They also have a range of cocktails available for purchase:

Southwest Airlines drinks
Southwest Airlines drinks

So was this my very favorite flight? No. However, they did their job and I got to my destination safely at a price my employer was willing to pay. I would love to hear from folks in the comments section, particularly concerning your opinion of the Southwest Airlines boarding process.


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