Southwest Airlines doesn't assign seats (what are they thinking?), and what's worse, they don't explain their policy when you purchase tickets or check in. If you don't know what to expect, you can easily wind up with the worst seats on the plane!
We requested our seat assignments when we made our reservations, and Southwest said that seats were assigned at the airport and to arrive an hour before departure. What an understatement! Why on earth didn't they explain what really happens?
We arrived the specified hour early, only to discover when we checked in that all seats are on a strictly first come first serve basis.
When we got to the gate, it was packed with people standing. We saw two lines and had no idea what was going on. We asked the agent at the gate which line we were supposed to be in and didn't get a reply.
We thought one of the lines was for another flight, and someone said we should be in one they called the B line, so we got in it. Turns out we were supposed to be in a third C line that we didn't even see, but we didn't find that out until it was too late.
The way it works: There are three lines A, B, and C that correspond to a letter on your boarding pass, assigned based on your arrival time. A's board first, C's last. Why not explain this to passengers upfront? We aren't born knowing it, and every Southwest customer has a first flight with them.
We didn't know we were in the wrong line until the agent wouldn't let us board. So we were the last people on the plane, got terrible seats, and there was no longer room for our carryon luggage.
And the whole policy is ridiculous to begin with. Isn't air travel inconvenient enough without this pointless nonsense? To get a good seat on our return, we checked in THREE hours early, then waited in line over an hour at the gate. People get there so early, the line consisted of people sitting on the floor.
Who needs this hassle? Why on earth not assign seats like every other airline we have flown? We realize that Southwest is cheap, but we can't see why having a computer assign seats would be much of an expense. If anyone at Southwest has a LOGICAL explanation, we'd love to hear it.
And there's NO excuse for not alerting you to this policy when you make your reservation, on their website or by phone.