Southwest Testing "Family Only" Section of Plane

Southwest, in an effort to speed their boarding process, is testing a “family only” section of the plane. As you’re probably aware, Southwest does not issue seating assignments, and as a result have to spend time asking single people to move so xyz family can all sit together.

This takes approximately forever. From Upgrade Travel Better:

For those that haven’t flown Southwest: The airline uses an “open seating” model, which means that there are no seat assignments on boarding passes. You get assigned to boarding group A, B, or C, depending on how early your check in. The A’s get to board first and choose their seats from the pick of the litter.
There have been a few different family-boarding variants: For example, one version has the gate attendants calling up boarding group A to board first, as usual. Thereafter, families are asked to board.

In another model, one section of rows on board is “reserved” for families to sit together. (Perhaps they should call this “Mullet Seating” — business in the front, party in the rear.)

By all accounts the family section isn’t separated from the regular section by soundproof glass, so we know more than a few of our commenters will be disappointed.

For those of you who fly Southwest, if implemented, would this be this a welcome change?

Southwest tests “families-only” section on planes.
[Upgrade Travel Better]


Edit Your Comment

  1. vr4z06gt says:

    the policy really should be any party of 4 or more people booked at the SAME TIME, can preregister so that they can sit together, everyone still remains open after the preregistered/old/kids people board first, again in a designated area of the plane, should be the back for kids and family’s, the front for old people, hey they are old why make them walk far. The rest of the plane is still open for everyone else.

  2. one of my biggest annoyances with Southwest is they allow families with small children to board first. Inevitably all these brats end up in the front of the plane. After the trip when the plane is unloading, these people don’t have their shit together and it takes them awhile to collect their belongings and get off the plane.

  3. CoffeeCake says:

    No. It would not be a “welcome change.”

    Petrarch is right that people with little ones are already allowed to board early as they are on every airline. People with school age and older kids who can’t board early should just get their acts together and get their boarding passes online or get to the airport early so they can be in the “A” group. The beauty and curse of Southwest airlines is the first-come-first-served seating.

  4. tedyc03 says:

    Here’s a novel concept: people who want good seats together should go to the Southwest website 24 hours prior to flying and get their boarding passes in the A group. It’s what I do for every Southwest flight; that way I don’t have to struggle to find a seat, or overhead bag space, or really anything.

  5. davidaegger says:

    Stick the families in the back of the plane, and maybe, maybe, I’ll not tell corporate travel booking people to never ever book me on Southwest. I want to know if I’m going to get a terrible seat so I can either book a different flight time or fly with a different carrier.

  6. Buran says:

    No. You can already get on first, A group or not, if you have a kid. Sit in the back on your own, so we don’t have to shove our way past you to get to our seats. I have no sympathy if you’re moronic enough to get pinched by someone’s luggage. You got on first — WHY did you sit where everyone has to walk?

  7. Trai_Dep says:

    Think this is a great idea. Especially if they make the rear parts the Very Special Zone of the plane. Any boorish children not seated in the VSZ gets to be paddled by whomever is within striking distance. Not because it’ll keep them quiet, not because it will make them aware that there’s a world in which they’re a small part. No, it’s because hitting unruly, non-related children is fun!

    (Well-behaved kids get the run of the place, including the pilot’s chair if they desire. THAT’LL keep the terrorists off US airlines!)

  8. Meg Marco says:

    Let’s pretty please keep the discourse in this section above topics like striking children. Thanks!

  9. TechnoDestructo says:

    @vr4z06gt: That wouldn’t be too hard to do, if they don’t give the people any choice as to where their group is placed. Fill the plane from back to front, put one group in front of another. You wouldn’t even neccesarily have to section it off, just the open seats start where the group seats end, however many there were.

    And I’m sure they could charge a few bucks for the privilege.

  10. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @meghannmarco: That’s oppression of the childfree!


  11. humphrmi says:

    Meghan: Thanks for keeping the discussion pertinent.

    My issue with flying Southwest for leisure has always been the uncertainty of boarding with my family. Yeah, you can check-in 24 hours prior *if* you have access to a computer and printer, which is great for your first leg until you’re in a hotel with neither. Then, you’re back to taking your chances.

    Now, I might give them a shot for our next family vacation.

  12. jamesdenver says:

    Hey my childfree partner and I are just as much a family as the the stroller derby barreling down the aisle! How about calling it “groups of four” or etc.

    Come ‘on – you knew that overly PC comment was coming :)

  13. Mills says:

    Hopefully, this fails so miserably, they’ll try a childfree section of the plane.

    I’m holding out hope.

    And not flying Southwest.

  14. bdgbill says:

    How about, if your on a flight from Dallas to Houston you just sit the fuck down in any empty seat and endure the hardship of being seperated for 30 minutes.

    I actually laugh at people who ask me to move.

  15. camas22 says:

    the greyhound of the skies takes another leap forward in putting families who pay $39 a head 8 months in advance over business people who are the cash cows.

  16. GrantGannon says:

    Hard to tell on this one.

    I live in Dallas and every flight, save for one to Memphis, I’ve flown out of here has been on Southwest. Now as a single male I really don’t care if I’m asked to move to anywhere else on the plane.

    I think it’s a good idea for a family section as having both mom and dad in place to deal with the kiddos is the best option instead of putting 8-year old Junior Kicksmyseat in a seat three rows away from mom and pops.

    Yes the business folks are the cash cows but if you want business class head out to the nightmare that is DFW, O’Hare or Hartsfield and fly your happy ass on Delta or AA.

  17. humphrmi says:

    @bdgbill: How about if that six year old ends up in the seat next to you, because Dad and Junior can’t get a seat together? You want that?

  18. Hawkeye1659 says:

    I fly Southwest all the time for work and rarely have any issues with kids or families (and I really don’t like kids so I would definitely notice). Just check in early, get A seating, and sit in an aisle/window or across from another adult in the window/aisle on the same side. Usually the middle won’t even be taken but if it is, I’ve never had a kid sit there or been asked to move. Is it REALLY that big of a deal though for a couple hours of your life? Play a movie on your laptop, sleep, or listen to your ipod and play solitare. Lets not take ourselves too seriously here.

  19. Personally, and I’m curious how many people agree, I find flying with junior high school groups MUCH more irritating than flying with even badly-behaved toddlers/small children. And I was on one flight where they free-sat (it was a European cut-rate airline, not Southwest) and oh. my. lord. They were everywhere. Shrieking. Having them board first and sit in a group would have been an enormous improvement.

    But then, this is why God gave us airport bars.

  20. reeg2 says:

    if you’re dumb enough not to have headphones to drown out the engine noise and people around you, you deserve a crying baby.

    they’re kids for goodness sakes and it’s not like you can control their happiness and crying as most of the people on the plane believe.

  21. bigvicproton says:

    god also gave us valium…parents should give it to their kids.

  22. vr4z06gt says:

    @bigvicproton: god didn’t give us valium Hoffmann-La Roche did. ;)

  23. MMD says:

    There’s already abuse of the “family” preboarding on Southwest. I’ve seen situations where there’s one small child accompanied by 5 or 6 adults, all of whom get to preboard. I can’t imagine that a family section wouldn’t be similarly abused.

    Of course, a small child needs to sit with a parent or caretaker, but I’ve never understood why larger groups need to sit “together” anyway – except for maybe the person directly across the aisle from you, you’re not really *with* anyone else on the plane anyway.

  24. AMerrickanGirl says:

    Why doesn’t Southwest just have reserved seating like all the other airlines? Seems like the workaround is more complicated than just letting people pick a seat ahead of time.

  25. DjDynasty says:

    I’ll make it a point to NEVER fly SouthWest again. I have millions of frequent flyer miles because I commute from Florida to Chicago and back every week. I rarely cash those miles in for free tickets, but it allows me after hitting such a high standard to change flights at no additional cost, as well as be upgraded to first class because of an unrulely child. I don’t believe in Child abuse laws, I also don’t believe it’s abuse if after a good beating, the child can start smart off back. There’s a fine line between striking the fear of god into a child, and beating them into a coma. I would prepare my children for flights by asking to sit at the emergency exit row, and say this directly to an airline employee when checking in “I’d like to exit row, so if my children misbehave, I can throw them out the door, rather than disturb other passengers” Sometimes I didn’t know how I scared more, the check-in agent, or the children. Either way the most I ever heard out of them during that wonder day and a half flight to Australia was “Can you move your legs so I can go to the bathroom”

  26. jnkdaniel says:

    they should just give free toys whoever sits in the back of the plane.

  27. Me. says:

    Kids can be ignored as long as they are not kicking the back of the seat, IMHO. I also bring lots of hard candy for myself (in case I get stuck on one of those horrible 12 hour “one hour” flights with no food). Last time I flew, it was used to quiet a little girl who’s ears wouldn’t pop and who’s dad had come totally unprepared.

    I personally have a much bigger issue with the larger passenger who takes up $90 worth of my $270 seat by putting the arm-rest up. But that’s a whole other topic….

  28. r81984 says:

    This would work great only if the family section was in the tail of the plane.

    Let the families be the first ones on in the back and the last ones off. This way they will not inconvience anyone else with their kids and family members moving around and blocking the isle while they try to get everyones luggage put up and everyone situated.

    The front of the plane should only be for business and single travelers who will quickly grab their luggage and rush off the plane.

  29. NightFlyer says:

    I like a lot of things about SW, but I hate not having assigned seats. My guess is that the existing free-for-all seating by groups will be exacerbated by having FEWER seats for the unchilded passengers, some of whom may need/want to sit together.

  30. vladthepaler says:

    I don’t see the problem they’re trying to solve. Parents with small children get to board first, so if they want to sit together, they can. Families with older children can either check in early or take their chances of sitting apart. There’s nothing wrong with that.

  31. Geekybiker says:

    I always just put the armrest right back down and my arm firmly on top. If they complain “Shoulda bought two seats then”

    Anyhow, while Im all about “family” sections on an airplane this policy seems to just open up all sorts of abuse with southwest’s no assigned seat program.

  32. anyanka323 says:

    Last week my mother and I flew from LA to Detoit on Northwest. It wasn’t a pleasant flight. Once we boarded, we found a woman, infant, and car seat in our assigned seats, because they did not have adjacent seats. The mother said that another girl said they could switch. The bottled blonde didn’t even have the right seat so she had no right to do that! My mother called a flight attendant over to help us find seats and get the whole mess sorted out. The mother kept giving my mother dirty looks and acting like she was a bitch for wanting our assigned seats. The sad part was this whole situation could have been avoided by her asking at the gate for adjacent seating and they would have gladly accommodated her.

    To make it worse, there was a family of three, 2 parents and a baby who screamed most of the flight sitting behind them. The woman’s baby screamed during most of the flight as well. The sad part was the mother who had not shown any foresight got more sympathy from other passengers than myself and my mother who had our seats stolen by her and her brat. After that experience, I’m all in favor of a family only section so that those irresponsible parents who chose to subject us to their brats’ bawling can sit together.