Southwest Airlines is one of the most popular and affordable airlines in the United States. It offers low fares, free checked bags, and a flexible cancellation policy. However, unlike most other airlines, Southwest does not assign seats to its passengers. Instead, it has an open seating policy, which means that you can choose any available seat on the plane when you board. This can be both an advantage and a disadvantage, depending on your preferences and priorities. In this article, we will explain how Southwest’s seat selection works, and how you can get the best seats on your next flight.
How Southwest’s Seat Selection Works
Southwest’s seat selection is based on a boarding system that assigns passengers to different groups and positions. When you check in for your flight, you will receive a boarding pass that shows your boarding group (A, B, or C) and your boarding position (1-60). These determine the order in which you will board the plane, and thus, the availability of seats when you do.
The boarding groups are divided as follows:
- Group A: This is the first group to board the plane, and it has the best chance of getting the most desirable seats. Group A consists of passengers who have purchased Business Select fares, which are the most expensive and include priority boarding, extra Rapid Rewards points, and a free drink coupon. Group A also includes passengers who have earned A-List or A-List Preferred status, which are Southwest’s elite tiers that reward frequent flyers with benefits such as priority boarding, check-in, and security. Additionally, Group A includes passengers who have paid for EarlyBird Check-In, which is a service that automatically checks you in 36 hours before your flight and assigns you a boarding position. Finally, Group A includes passengers who have bought Upgraded Boarding, which is an option to purchase one of the remaining A1-A15 boarding positions at the gate, if available.
- Group B: This is the second group to board the plane, and it has a moderate chance of getting good seats. Group B consists of passengers who have checked in online or at the airport within 24 hours of their flight. The earlier you check in, the higher your boarding position will be, and the more seats you will have to choose from. However, since Group A has already boarded, some of the best seats may already be taken.
- Group C: This is the last group to board the plane, and it has the lowest chance of getting good seats. Group C consists of passengers who have checked in late, or who have been assigned a boarding position at the gate due to a change in their reservation. By the time Group C boards, most of the seats may already be occupied, and you may have to settle for whatever is left.
The boarding positions are numbered from 1 to 60 within each group, and they determine the order in which you will line up at the gate. The lower your boarding position, the earlier you will board, and the more seats you will have to choose from. For example, if you have A1, you will be the first person to board the plane, and you can pick any seat you want. If you have C60, you will be the last person to board the plane, and you may have to take the middle seat in the back row.
To board the plane, you will need to scan your boarding pass at the gate, and then find your place in the designated area for your boarding group and position. Southwest uses a system of poles and signs to mark the boarding lanes, and you will need to stand in the correct spot according to your boarding pass. For example, if you have A16, you will need to stand between the poles that say A16-30. When your group is called, you will proceed to board the plane in numerical order, and then choose any available seat.
How to Get the Best Seats on Southwest
The best seats on Southwest depend on your personal preferences and priorities. Some people may prefer window seats, while others may prefer aisle seats. And some people may want to sit in the front of the plane, while others may want to sit in the back. Some people may want to sit near the exit rows, while others may want to avoid them. However, there are some general factors that can help you decide which seats are best for you, such as:
- Legroom: If you want more space to stretch your legs, you may want to choose a seat in the exit rows, which have extra legroom. However, keep in mind that the exit rows also have some drawbacks, such as stricter requirements, narrower seats, and limited recline. Another option for more legroom is to choose a seat in the bulkhead rows, which are the first rows of each section of the plane. However, these seats also have some disadvantages, such as no underseat storage, reduced seat width, and limited recline. A third option for more legroom is to choose a seat in the front row of each section, which have more space between the seats and the wall. However, these seats may also have less recline and no window.
- Comfort: If you want more comfort, you may want to choose a seat that has more padding, cushioning, and recline. Generally, the seats in the front of the plane are more comfortable than the seats in the back, as they are newer and have more features. However, some of the seats in the front may also have less recline, such as the bulkhead seats and the exit row seats. Another factor that affects comfort is the seat width, which varies depending on the model of the plane. Southwest operates two types of planes: the Boeing 737-700 and the Boeing 737-800. The 737-700 has a seat width of 17 inches, while the 737-800 has a seat width of 17.8 inches. Therefore, if you want more room to sit, you may want to choose a flight that uses the 737-800, or a seat that has no armrests, such as the window seat in the exit row.
- Convenience: If you want more convenience, you may want to choose a seat that is easy to access, has more storage, and is close to the amenities. Generally, the aisle seats are more convenient than the window seats, as they allow you to get in and out of your seat without disturbing your seatmates. However, the aisle seats also have some drawbacks, such as less privacy, more noise, and more exposure to the service carts. Another factor that affects convenience is the location of the seat on the plane. Generally, the seats in the front of the plane are more convenient than the seats in the back, as they allow you to board and deboard faster, and are closer to the lavatories and the galley. However, the seats in the front may also have more traffic, noise, and turbulence.
Based on these factors, some of the best seats on Southwest are:
- Seat 12A: This is a window seat in the exit row on the left side of the plane. It has extra legroom, more recline, more privacy, and a good view. However, it also has a narrower seat, no underseat storage, and stricter requirements.
- Row 1: These are the bulkhead seats in the front of the plane. They have extra legroom, more comfort, more convenience, and faster boarding and deboarding. However, they also have less recline, no underseat storage, and reduced seat width.
- Row 11, Seats B and C: These are the aisle and middle seats in the exit row on the right side of the plane. They have extra legroom, more comfort, more convenience, and more space. However, they also have a narrower seat, no underseat storage, and stricter requirements.
Southwest Airlines has a unique seat selection policy that allows passengers to choose their own seats when they board the plane. This can be both an advantage and a disadvantage, depending on your preferences and priorities. To get the best seats on Southwest, you need to understand how their boarding system works, and how to improve your boarding position. You also need to consider the factors that affect the quality of the seats, such as legroom, comfort, and convenience. By following these tips, you can increase your chances of getting the seats that suit you best on your next Southwest flight.