With regard to http://www.southwest.com/help/boardingschool/:
I heard on the news this morning that your airline is considering changing their seating policy to not allow travelers with small children to pre-board on flights and instead require them to go through the regular A, B, C seating grab. As a family with a small 9-month old baby who flies at least twice a month, and as a business-traveling father who flies more than once a week, I feel that this is a very bad policy to implement and I urge you to reconsider.
We like Southwest quite a bit. In fact on a flight last weekend we were very happy to learn that some of your newer planes are coming with baby changing stations in the front lavatories. This is a very nice feature that parents appreciate quite a bit. However, because of the way your check-in and boarding process works for families, we will be unable to fly your airline if you implement this newest policy.
Normally, I like the open seating policy. However, if you require families with small children to wait in A-B-C order to get a seat, then there is a high likelihood that we will not be able to find seats together, and that is very a very difficult problem because when flying on a small airplane it usually takes two people to try to manage and keep calm a small baby. While online check-in is a useful tool for normal travelers, we have found that your online check-in system does not work well for family travelers because we still have to have our daughter’s birth certificate verified at the ticket counter, and we have found that if we do that on the outbound leg then whoever she’s attached to will not be able to do online check-in on the return leg. Worse yet, if we are in a location where we can’t do online check-in then it has become impossible to get into an A boarding group even if you arrive 3+ hours early at the airport (I’ve gotten a B pass checking in a mere 6 hours after the online check-in window opened up!)
I also believe that requiring families to board in the proposed order will result in delays and frustrations for the rest of your customers as well. We try to be efficient travelers with our baby, but there are still more items we have to carry and a squirming little child we have to deal with, so I can guarantee that families boarding along with everyone else will slow the process down for the bulk of your travelers that simply want to board, stow, and go.
To a family traveling with small children, the risk of not being able to find seats together is unacceptable. Since we are traveling with our daughter on a predictable schedule, and since there are plenty of other airlines that offer low fares in advance as well as assigned seating with pre-boarding policies, if you chose to eliminate the pre-boarding policy for families then we will likely be choosing another airline for our flights.
Again, I urge you to reconsider this change. Southwest is an excellent airline and has a well-deserved reputation for being customer focused. I truly feel that a change like this will be a detriment to all of your passengers, and result in more frustration and dissatisfied passengers.