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Incoming Southwest CEO Says Assigned Seats May Be in Airline's Future

Travel + Leisure logo Travel + Leisure 1/21/2022 Alison Fox

Courtesy of Southwest Airlines © Provided by Travel + Leisure Courtesy of Southwest Airlines

Assigned seating may be in Southwest's future, the airline's incoming CEO said at a virtual town hall this week.

The airline, long known for its unique way of doing things, does not currently assign seats but instead gives passengers a boarding group and reserved boarding number when they check in. However, incoming CEO Robert Jordan, who was previously the airline's executive vice president and will officially take the reins in February, said it may be time for a change.

"Could we one day need to take back up the assigned-seating question? I think we may have to do that," Jordan said, per Travel Weekly, adding the airline would look at the impact of seat assignments on things like turnaround time and how important it is to business travelers. "Just know this. We are committed to continuing to look at our product, making sure it's relevant."

But Jordan added the potential move isn't something customers can expect to see in the immediate future. And as for another Southwest mainstay, Jordan said free checked bags aren't going anywhere anytime soon.

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Instead, Jordan said the airline will focus on things like providing more reliable Wi-Fi, hiring more workers (which will, in turn, mean more planes in the sky), and restoring full in-flight service.

"We need to get back to the point where you can set your watch by the reliability of our operations," he said, adding, "It's going to take into 2023 to restore the network completely back to where we were in 2019."

Southwest has also added new customer services this year, like allowing passengers traveling back to the United States from international destinations to purchase discounted COVID-19 test kits.

The airline is also known for its Companion Pass program, which allows eligible fliers to designate one other person to fly with them nearly for free.

Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she's not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.

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