Our client booked us on Southwest Airlines this week for our job in Baltimore. It may have to do with their reasonably priced fares, but holy hell, I would never use their airline on purpose again.
I’ve taken Southwest before, and I forgot how crappy the corral-style seating was.
Keep in mind, we just got back from a trip to NYC using another low-cost airline, Jet Blue. We had such a positive experience that I would consider using them again in a heartbeat.
On our way to Baltimore, I tried to describe Southwest Airlines seating methods to Tina, but she couldn’t wrap her head around it.
How it works is, you don’t get a seating assignment. If you pay for business class, you get to sit first. Then, the seating depends on frequency of travel. If you get an A seating assignment, you can get on the plane first, sit anywhere there’s an open seat.
But that’s not all. Your boarding pass says, “A-1” through “A-60” Once the first sixty people sit in numerical order, the B 1 to 60 people get to sit in numerical order. And then the C people get to sit. So if you’re a B-30 to 60 or a C 1 to 20 or 30, you’re fucked.
On the way to Baltimore, Tina had a B seating opportunity and I had C-10, one of the last possible seating placements. We gambled that the other passengers would let Tina save me a seat, and that I would be able to find a place to put my equipment in an overhead compartment.
The whole seating concept adds unnecessary stress to 150 already stressed-0ut people. It’s segregation. It’s opportunistic. It’s unfair. When I fly, I want to sit next to my loved one. If that baby goes down, I want to hold Tina’s hand, not the grandma traveling with her 9 month old grand daughter.
Leaving Chicago, there was a kerfuffle over seating that left us waiting to leave for over 45 minutes without (without!!!) any sort of explanation. There was a dude decked out in Grateful Dead iconography who was trying to find a seat on an overbooked flight. He traipsed up and down the aisle cussing and swearing that he should have a seat, and he seemed to refuse to get off.
The flight staff asked for certain travelers to turn on their call buttons so they could talk to them. After a couple different conversations, one of the travelers — a man — got off the flight. The Grateful Dead dude sat down in his place (swearing under his breath).
After 55 minutes of waiting, we finally backed up from the gate. As the flight staff prepared to give their safety spiel, a woman who was traveling with the man who got off the flight got up from her seat.
The flight staff attempted to sit her back down. After some conversation and a few calls on the little telephone at the front of the plane, our aircraft which had backed away from the gate, returned to the gate.
The entirety of the passengers let out deep sighs and “What the hell is going ons?”
The woman was finally convinced to sit down. And we were finally off.
So a plane-load of stressed out people — stressed more from dumb-ass coral style seating — were even more stressed.
And what did the flight staff do to ease that? They passed on an apology that went something like this: “We’re sorry for that small delay, but we’re finally on our way.”
A small delay is when a child walks in front of you and you have to wait for him to move before passing.
One hour on a hot plane is NOT a small delay.
On the way back, Tina and I were both given C ticket assignments, which meant we were to sit apart on our flight back.
Let me be clear. I hate Southwest Airlines.
I will go out of my way to never fly them again. Ever.
Flying is stressful for a lot of travelers. And if your business model accentuates, exploits and worsens that stress, surely the company would reconsider its methods.
tl;dr — Southwest Airlines uses a business plan and inexperienced flight attendants to make the stressful act of flying even more frustrating and difficult.