Southwest Airlines Sues To Keep Seating Inconvenient

If you’re a Southwest Airlines flier and want the best seats, an entire cottage industry has sprung up. You enter your Southwest Airlines account and password into sites like, or will automatically check you in online the second Southwest Airlines starts accepting seat reservations. It costs about $5 bucks per use… an excellent deal if you really want to get that extra leg room near the emergency exit door.

Unfortunately, Southwest Airlines doesn’t appreciate the convenience to their customers, so now they’re suing! Southwest’s big beef is that these websites violate the terms and conditions of Southwest Airlines’ website, accessing customer records as third parties. They’ve even managed to shut down

This is a great reason why flight providers should allow customers to reserve their seats when they buy the ticket. A flexible first-come, first-serve system of awarding the best seats to the people who come first that still has a loophole when the elderly or disabled needs the seat. If Southwest did that, they’d get rid of the cottage industry they so despise and give their customers what they are obviously clamoring for. But lawsuits are probably easier than retooling a nonsensical policy.

Getting the best seats on Southwest just got harder [Upgrade Travel]

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  1. TheChaz says:

    It’s not an entirely nonsensical policy. I read an article describing how the self-organizing behavior people engage in when seating themselves in planes leads to shorter boarding times by 20-50 percent. The shorter turn-around times are one of the efficiencies Southwest uses to keep costs down and ticket prices low. If you absolutely hate the seating system, you can always fly another carrier.

  2. Paul D says:

    But lawsuits are probably easier than retooling a nonsensical policy.

    Absolutely. Just ask the RIAA.

  3. CatMoran says:

    I was chatting with the flight attendants between flights last year, and they claimed that the ‘open seating’ is one reason they can do such quick turnarounds at the gate.

    It makes sense: no one’s squinting looking for row and seat numbers, people aren’t arguing because someone sat in the wrong seat, and a few times I’ve seen the attendants basically hustle the last few people into the first empty seat they see.

    If open seating is a price I pay to get where I’m going on time, I’ll pay it.

    Added bonus: I almost always have a book or the crossword puzzle out while the rest of the passengers board, and I nearly always get other bookish people (read: no incessant chatting) sitting next to me.

  4. But lawsuits are probably easier than retooling a nonsensical policy.

    Maybe they took a lesson from the RIAA/MPAA.

  5. Chris says:

    It’s actually not non-sensical. First, it’s cheaper. Second, there was a study a couple months ago about how all the airlines are trying new boarding patterns (front-to-back, outside-in, etc.), and Southwest’s DIY seat assignments allowed faster (and therefore cheaper) boarding than most assigned seat setups.

  6. cloud9 says:

    Well, it is nonsensical. Those websites didn’t disrupt Southwest’s “self-organising open seating.” You pay to get Group A, but not a specific seat. Southwest still prevents that.

    I suspect they are mad at those sites for earning $5 they themselves could earn. Maybe we’ll see Southwest charging that $5-for-Group A themselves soon. I mean, Northwest already has its $15 “Coach Choice.”