Does Southwest Airlines Have A Policy For (Or Against) Saving Seats?

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Open seating – it’s a signature of Southwest Airlines, and you either love or you hate it.  And open seating has been a policy on Southwest Airlines for 43 years.  But what does it mean?  And more importantly – are you allowed to save seats once on-board?

The answer is – vague(ish).  According to Southwest Airlines Have A Policy For (Or Against) Saving Seats?Guidance was put out to Southwest flight attendants in May of 2013, and as far as we know, the policy is still current. And it reads in part:

There is no Southwest policy prohibiting Customers from saving seats, even at the OWWE (Over Wing Window Exit). Our policy has not changed, and it is available on for our Customers to see— “Because Southwest Airlines maintains an open-seating policy, general-boarding Customers may sit in any open or unclaimed seat.”

We are aware there have been challenges with this process, and we do not expect our Flight Attendants to police Customers who want to save seats. We hope early boarding Customers will avoid this practice, however, we will not prevent them from doing so, nor will we monitor which seats they are saving (including exit row or bulkhead seats).

Bottom Line:

I think this policy is written in good faith … like it’s okay to save a seat or two, but don’t expect to save a ton of prime real estate on-board for your extended family. More importantly, try not to involve the Flight Attendants who might not enforce the policy, or even make it worse by making up their own policy.  Does anyone have any Southwest open seating successes, or horror stories?






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  1. I flew Southwest last night and one guy was saving an entire exit row for his family. I really don’t mind when people save seats, but there was something about saving an entire row of prime real estate for C boarders that rubbed me the wrong way. That being said, I think Southwests “policy” is probably the best way to handle it.

  2. If I’m by myself (without my wife) and I’ve paid for Early Bird boarding and some “person” is saving a prime exit row seat for someone coming on after me… Well you’d better be ready for a wrestling match. There’s a reason I paid for Early Bird boarding.

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