One of my most popular stories to date was when I ran a clever Southwest Airlines tip from Taylor Swift; she shared it during her commencement speech at NYU. I guess it’s not surprising since whatever Taylor Swift does or is featured in seems to turn to gold. RELATED: Taylor Swift Fan Makes Request of Southwest Airlines Pilot and Guess What? He Obliges

Taylor’s tip was the first thing I thought of when I read about this new dirty trick that Southwest Airlines (SWA) passengers are pulling on fellow passengers. As Taylor and SWA frequent fliers know, the airline doesn’t pre-assign seats, so it’s first-come first-serve. It’s their way to speed up the boarding process so passengers don’t spend a lot of time trying to locate their seat assignments.

But as all travelers know, not all seats are created equal, which is why some will pay a premium ($30 to $80) to get Southwest Airlines Boarding Group A, so they can board the plane first and snag the exit row seats, bulkhead, or aisle or window seats closest to the front of the cabin, so they can be one of the first to deplane.

But according to some social media posts, some passengers traveling with friends or family are playing a dirty little trick. Just one member of their party will pay for Group A and then they will save seats for the others. “@AkakHorn: @SouthwestAir PLEASE stop early A group boarders from “claiming” a row of exit row seats for family boarding in later groups- you just infuriated a few Business Class ticket holders by letting this continue to happen.”

Perhaps the craziest part of this is that Southwest Airlines doesn’t have a policy for or against this practice. They replied to AkakHorn, saying: “We regret any disappointment during the boarding process today. All Southwest flights are open seating, and we don’t have a specific policy for or against saving seats. Still, we apologize for any frustration and hope for smoother sailing in the future.” See embedded tweet below.


Another post on Reddit showed something similar. “MDW-DEN this afternoon. Full flight announcement made prior. Karen in row 5 aisle seat with bags on middle/window seat. I asked if I could take the window to which she replied “they’re taken but you can take middle seat on the other side of the aisle with my 2 girlfriend” 🙄

Twist on the seat saving controversy
byu/Cultural_Possible427 inSouthwestAirlines

But as some social media users pointed out:

@JavierDFW: Why would people buy “business select”? It seems there’s no point paying to board first if people can hoard the best seats like this for others in the lower boarding groups.

@lyndamariern: This happened to me too. I just got an Alaska airline and United credit cards because @SouthwestAir keeps allowing this crap. I’ll fly on another airline.

@parkerspolitics: I have picked up that bag, and sat myself down. I hate confrontation, but this is beyond the pale, and ppl trying to “save” a seat can’t justify it. It’s unacceptable. Why do other passengers allow it?

Although it’s not against airline policy, it’s a trend that is certainly going to continue. It’s similar to the lax laws in California where thieves can steal up to $950 worth of goods and basically have nothing happen to them. Why pay for something when you can get it for free? I know this is an extreme example but that’s how it feels to me.

Either SWA needs to step up and enforce this rule or it’s going to get out of hand. I also wouldn’t be surprised if we see more air rage cases scenarios like this. The good news is that since the plane is still on the ground during the boarding process, they can easily kick the irate passengers off without inconveniencing the whole flight.

Fortunately, some SWA flight attendants do enforce the rule as passengers have reported on Reddit:
Jetsonjudo: “Was on a full flight a few days ago. FA said. Seats are open. This flight is full. If ur bag is in the middle seat move it. I will be coming around to make sure those seats are open. So stop saving seats. Man. Best FA announcement ever. This was while b was boarding. Everyone got seated pretty quickly!”

MrBill12: “On a flight yesterday the announcement avoided no seat saving, but they flat out announced repeatedly beginning about the middle of B, “Southwest has an open seating policy, if there is not a person sitting in the seat, it is available. If you’re already seated and have a belongings on another seat Move them Now, this is a full flight, there will be no empty middles. For those in the aisle if you see an open seat, make it yours!”

Believe it or not, this isn’t the only thing you have to watch out for when flying Southwest Airlines. One of my friends and a frequent flier recently had her seat kidnapped! I can’t believe it’s a thing either but here’s what to do if it happens to you while traveling.

H/T View from the Wing


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9 Comments On "Southwest Airlines Passengers Are Playing a Dirty Little Trick on Seatmates to Save Money and the Airline is Okay With It"
  1. David Miller|

    So Johnny, what is YOUR solution? I am sure that Southwest would like to know how YOU would handle this situation.

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Hi David

      I think SWA should said it’s not allowed and to make it clear during the check-in and boarding.

  2. Patrick|

    Well as one who flies SWA more than any of the others carriers (I’ve got the CP) I don’t mind someone saving a seat IF I have an alternate choice (window) somewhere near the front but NO ONE is going to be saving an entire exit row (or even one seat) and not catch some grief. Those seats are just to precious. That just isn’t going to fly. (no pun intended)

    And… the seat was not kidnapped it’s called Seatnapped. ;-)

  3. Eileen|

    My husband and I paid xtra to board early and sit together. The flight we were on had used all the wheelchairs in the airport. By the time we boarded, we could not find 2 seats together. I do respect the handicapped but there is definitely abuse of the system where Southwest is concerned. Contacted airline, they would not give us a credit for the additional cost of early boarding. Never again.

  4. Anonymous|

    Childish practice; adults saving seats.

  5. JLaz|

    When is Southwest going to stop this charade of somehow people board more quickly when they don’t have an assigned seat? I think it takes longer for people to walk the aisle and select the best location, plus now you have this ridiculous concept of “saving” seats for people. Sorry, but this is one reason I prefer not to fly Southwest. Get into the 20th(!) Century and let passengers select their seats like every other airline!!!

  6. Bert Feinman|

    Thank you for remarks at top of article about the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel.

  7. Patrick|

    @Eileen… what was your boarding number? And were there people already on the plane from a previous flight?
    I find it hard to believe that on a plane with at least 150 seats (maybe more) you couldn’t find 2 together.
    In all my years flying SWA, I have never run into that situation unless I was boarding in the mid B or C group.
    There are only 60 people in the A group and that’s not enough to make it so you couldn’t sit together. Even with a dozen pre-boarders…

  8. Kim Plombon|

    On two separate occasions I have asked SW flight attendants why customers are allowed to “Save” seats. Both times I have been told that it is up to the customers to resolve the seating issues and if neither party will agree then BOTH parties can be kicked off the flight. Way to go Southwest!!!! Why cant’ they just enforce their own policy? I ALWAYS leave a negative comment regarding the seat saving issue when Southwest sends me a questionnaire regarding my flight. If enough of us do that maybe they will start listening!

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