How do I ask for a seat on Southwest that someone is saving for a friend at the back of the line?

Reserved-SeatsIf you aren’t already familiar, Southwest Airlines has a unique, some say revolutionary, way to board their planes: there are no assigned seats. Rather, Southwest Airlines uses a first-come first-served basis to selecting seats. Of course, first-come is based on your flight status, whether you are traveling with children, if you active military…you get to board at the beginning. Then rest of the travelers board according to how quickly they checked in 24 hours prior to the fight.

Now personally as an A type personality and anxious flier I strongly dislike this system. Just let me pick my seat when I book my flights and let’s be done with it!  But, when I am traveling on Southwest I take advantage of the system, check in as early as possible, and try to nab a window seat.

You may think that the system is brilliant, but there is one major downfall: seat savers. You know who you are. You place an extra coat for your friend or spouse at the back of the line. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Often the seat saver is reserving a middle seat which will be the last to be selected anyway. However, when the seat saver is taking a window or aisle in addition to his or her own window or aisle, this is not playing by the Southwest rules.

If you are picky about your seats and are flying Southwest, don’t fret.  When you board the plane in the high A’s or low B’s (Southwest’s numerical system for boarding) and you see that the few remaining window or aisle seats are being “reserved” do not hesitate to speak up.

  • First, ask if the seat is available. This helps to clarify in case the person sitting there merely stepped into the restroom.
  • If the seat is reserved and you don’t feel that there is another acceptable available seat, simply let the other traveler know that you will be choosing the seat instead of the back of the line C-40 friend that did not set calendar reminders, alarms, and triple check that he or she had full service wifi at the exact moment check-in begins.
  • Finally, speak up politely but firmly, “It’s nice of you to save a seat for your friend, but because I am boarding ahead of your friend, I would like to take that seat. Perhaps your friend will be comfortable in the middle seat or will find another window or aisle seat in a different portion of the plane. Thank you.”

After all, if you are going to be subjected to gambling on your seat, you get to use the system as it was intended and pick your seat when your turn comes.