I must admit that I am a HUGE fan of Southwest Airlines. They have roomy seats, good snacks, and I enjoy the open seating policy and boarding procedure that is based on the behavior of ants. I mean, what’s not to LUV?
But, about once a month I am asked an etiquette question related to their boarding procedure. So, with the help of some lovely folks at Southwest Airlines, here is my official etiquette for boarding a Southwest flight.
- CHECK IN: The process begins when you check in. Upon check in you are assigned a boarding group of A, B, or C and as position number from 1 – 60. For example, B14.
- GO TO THE GATE: At each Southwest gate, in any airport, there are numbered posts that indicate where to stand in line when your boarding group (A, B, or C) is called.
- WHEN YOUR GROUP IS CALLED: “Find your designated place in line and board the aircraft in numerical order with your boarding group", per Southwest.com. They also have a very easy to view video notebook that explains the process.
There are a few challenges you may encounter:
NUMBERED POSTS: Unfortunately, these not-so-little signs that tell you where to stand in line are not at eye level for anyone, except perhaps Wilt Chamberlain, and this is a critical part of the Southwest boarding system.
NUMBERS ON THE POSTS: The posts are numbered 1 – 5 , 6 -10, 11 – 15 etc…. and there are arrows next to the numbers indicating if you should stand in front or behind the designated post but it is unclear if you are required to line up in numerical order in your group of 4 or 5.
According to Katie McDonald, Communications Manager at Southwest Airlines, the answer is no. “As long as the groups of four or five are between the two indicated polls, they do not HAVE to be in numerical order”. She suggested “roll with the punches but if someone asks what your number is, the polite thing do is stand in order.”
I concur with Katie. Roll with the punches and keep it polite. Remember, no matter what group or number you have when you board, we all arrive at the same time. Happy flying and I will see on you on Southwest flight soon!