Can you assign seat numbers for standing?

Can you assign seat numbers for standing?

By Rajesh Setty on Mon 03 Dec 2007, 2:11 PM – 2 Comments

Sounds like an oxymoron but it’s not.

Southwest Airlines may have bee the first airline to do away with seat numbers.  So they operated like a bus. You were assigned a group (A, B or C) depending on when you checked in. If you wanted good seats, you check-in early so t Ouhat you are in group A. It was that simple.

Recently, they made one more change. Within the group, you are now assigned a number 1-30 or 1-60 and that indicates your standing position in the queue to get into the airplane. It is a big and interesting change.

My first experience on this new scheme was a few weeks ago. I guess it was the first experience for many people. So there was some chaos in the Southwest counter at the Chicago airport. We were chatting about the new scheme with a Southwest person and he calmly responded “It is a big change and we know that it will take a few months before people get used to it. We are OK with that”

My $.02:

1. Changing the rules of the game: Hat’s off to Southwest for changing the rules of the game – not once but twice.  One is to change the rules and other is to show brilliance in executing on that change. They are good at doing both.

2. Understanding that change takes time:  From the response of the Southwest person on the counter, it was clear that Southwest knows this. Most people don’t. Just because they think something is a good idea, they have a tendency to believe that everyone will think so.

3. To keep costs low, push the costs somewhere else: Today morning, I was boarding a Southwest plane coming to Chicago again. My flight was at 6.50am and we started boarding at 6.34am. The flight took off at 6.50am.  One of the reasons (I think) this was possible was because the cost of maintaining the discipline was moved to the passengers.

4. Creating bigger barriers to entry: This was an example of a move where Southwest is changing the way they do business with their customers. They are doing this in the way customers feel that is “for their benefit”. Those that want to get in early in the plane HAVE to check-in earlier than others in the same plane. This means that more people will check-in online. Checking-in online is no longer a convenience. It’s a game. If you want to win, you go first. What is interesting is, whether someone wins or not, Southwest will win as more people will check-in online. Think about it, you can check-in online most other carriers but you do that for convenience. Here you do it for more than convenience. If other carriers have to catch up, they have to do more than just advertise it, they have to change their business model. Southwest is simply creating bigger barriers for other carriers to get in.

Question for you:

At your work, what rules are you taking for granted? Which of those rules are you willing to re-define in the marketplace to gain a superior competitive advantage?


Related Articles:

Posted in the Business Models category.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend   

2 Comments so far, Add Yours

Guy  on December 4th, 2007


This is not in response to your question but rather in response to your Southwest airline postings.

It is interesting to see you flying on SW, and your praise for their systems. I remember when I was flying a lot I stopped flying SW even though I also thought they were well run, staffed by pleasant people and

almost always punctual. However on business I was nearly always running late getting to the airport, and if I was going to stay overnight then I had a carry on bag. Arriving late at SW meant being the last to board and fighting for a place to sit and a place to stow my bag.

So, even though I thought them an excellent airline I really had to go to someone who catered better for me. I guess I was the type of passenger who would make them run late so they were likely happy I went elsewhere anyway.

Just interested in how well you manage your time that you are able to get there so early :)



Vinayak  on December 4th, 2007

We experienced this unique change on Southwest recently when we flew to Florida. It is annoying and will take time for customers to get used to it.

My take on this is, even if you check in early, you have to board early in the very queue and follow the line, if you want good seats. If you for some reason board late, although you checked in early, you will end up wondering how to get those 2 adjacent seats for you and your spouse or family. Individual travelers who boarded early would leave 1 seat in the middle, not 2. Then you will need either ask someone to ‘adjust’ or ask help from Crew.

Leave a Comment