Love it or hate it, Southwest Airlines has a unique seating process. Where most airlines will assign you an exact seat, Southwest gives you a boarding number and you can choose any open seat in the plane. Some enjoy choosing who they sit next to, but others don’t like the added anxiety of not knowing where you will sit until you are on the plane.
When you check-in you will get a boarding letter A, B or C and a number 1-60. A1 is the best and C60 is the worst. No matter what number you have there are ways to improve where you sit — unless you are last to board. I have flown quite a bit on Southwest and have picked up a few tricks and I figured I would share them with you and hopefully learn a few more from you.
Some people will be going for the window seat, while others for the aisle. I don’t know anyone trying to get a center seat. You might think having A1 guarantees you a good seat, but it might not. I will give you seven tips that I suggest trying, then a few things that I have always thought about how they might work but one shouldn’t necessarily try. There’s no scientific research to these and not saying they always work, but here’s what I got:
1. Ask if the flight is full. Before boarding ask the gate agent if the flight will be full or how full it might be. If it is full, none of these really matter. Just try to get a window/aisle seat as close to the front or in an exit row. If you are in the C-group just find a center seat as soon as possible.
2. Don’t be in the C group. Seriously, just don’t be in the C-group. If you read this blog and end up in the C group, you should be embarrassed. Okay, I know sometimes life happens, so if you somehow end up in the C group just take the first window or aisle seat possible and next time check in earlier.
3. Don’t sit in the exit row. Oh you think these are the prime seats right? Well maybe for leg room, but they will be the first center seats to go. If you only want legroom and don’t care about someone sitting next to you go for it. However, Southwest has a pretty good seat pitch of 32-33″, so I like going for not having a person sit next to me and exit rows always fill up.
4. Sit near the front. Try to get the first window or aisle seat on the plane. Boarding passengers are always hoping to not have to get a center seat and will travel to the back of the plane hoping to find one. This means they will leave center seats in the front of the plane hoping for premium seat in the back. When they don’t find them they will just take a center seat in the back.
5. Don’t pick an empty row. Pick a row with someone already sitting in the aisle or window seat. If you take a new row you might end up getting a couple (or worst a child with a parent).
6. Take a kid with you. I don’t have one, so I can’t really do this, but I see a lot of empty seats in a row if there is kid traveling with an adult. Probably not worth it to borrow someone’s kid to end up having an empty row. My last Southwest flight some kid pee’d in his seat, luckily I was not sitting next to him.
7. Don’t be attractive. It seems all the attractive people (especially women) will find seats filling up next to them quite quickly. Kind of like speed dating, but not that fast. Try to look as least attractive as possible to keep the seat next to you empty for as long as possible.
Alright, now here are the ones you really shouldn’t use. Either they are crazy, rude or just plain wrong:
A. Avoid eye contact. If you make eye contact, it is easier for others to ask if they can sit next to you. Yea, this is easy, but it is just darn rude and I think of it as cheating.
B. Take the center seat. I have never had enough guts to try this one and it is risky. This will only work if the flight isnt that full and could get you a row to yourself.
C. Take up space. Take your laptop out and start working on it, don’t crunch your arms in if no one is sitting next to you and maybe store a jacket or something on the center seat. I normally won’t store something on the center seat since that is getting into the “not nice travel buddy” category, but being 6’1″ and 250lbs it is easy for me to look like I am taking up space.
D. Act. Pretend to be sick or insane. Just be careful… if you go too far you are getting booted off the plane. Hmm, actually on second thought, I might purposefully sit next to a person like this just to write up a fun blog.
E. Go more than just un-attractive. Wear dirty clothes, don’t shower a week before your flight. Just don’t go too far, you might be booted off the plane.
F. Start crying. I have seen this work quite a few times, but it is annoying. Not sure if people are being genuine or not, but they say they have just can’t sit in the middle seat and start begging for someone to switch them. Argh! I am normally a nice guy, but if you “can’t” sit in a center seat, pay the $10 for early-bird check in or just check in earlier. If you are willing to fake-cry to get out of a center seat, that is just sad.
There have to be more. What are some of your strategies for getting the best seat on Southwest?Image: Fly_4U