Southwest Airlines is a definite outlier in the airline world. They’re the only U.S. airline that doesn’t charge a fee for your first two checked bags. They’re the only one that allows you to cancel your flight and reschedule for another time, fee-free. They’re the only one that gets even close to allowing you to transfer your ticket to someone else, with no added fees. And, of course, they don’t have seating assignments – they have passengers line up and pick their seats as they get onto the plane.
However, during a virtual town hall meeting with business travelers, the incoming Southwest CEO suggested that implementing assigned seating was definitely on the table.
“Could we one day need to take back up the assigned-seating question? I think we may have to do that,” Bob Jordan was quoted by Travel Weekly.
Jordan did admit that switching to assigned seating if it were to happen, would not be an immediate concern when he takes the reigns of CEO from outgoing CEO Gary Kelly next month.
Jordan’s priorities appear to be leaning more towards hiring between 8,000 and 10,000 workers, so the airline’s overall operations would be more reliable.
He also wants to focus on restoring full in-flight service offerings, as well as more reliable Wi-Fi. Consistent profitability and a renewed emphasis on employee relations were also high on his list.
Jordan said that Southwest has no plans to start charging for bags. He also mentioned he doesn’t foresee them creating a first-class section or seats with more legroom. But he did say that the airline may well look into seeing if assigned seats helped turn time and operations, and how important that kind of seating is to business passengers.
“Just know this. We are committed to continuing to look at our product, making sure it’s relevant,” he said.
It’s been interesting to see how Bob Jordan’s public comments on assigned seating have evolved.
In June 2021, it sounded as if assigned seating could be on the table, but probably not. At the time, he told USA Today that “If it was clear that the need (for assigned seating) was there, that this was essential to our product, we would absolutely look at that.” But he also said that “every single time” time the airline has studied changing its seating policy customers “generally prefer open seating.”
Yet just before Christmas 2021, he was more along the lines of, “Probably not but hey, ya never know.” That’s when he told the Associated Press, “It’s very hard for me to imagine that we would go to assigned seating…But I do put (assigned seating) sort of in the never-say-never bucket.”
And now he’s saying Southwest “may have to do that.” Hmmm…
Watch this space…
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