Southwest Airlines has offered open seating for its entire existence, more than 30 years. More than a year ago it started looking at other ways to board passengers, including assigned seating. Not only did it test that option on flights out of San Diego, but it also sought feedback from those customers as well as the blogosphere through its blog, Nuts About Southwest. Gary Kelly, their CEO, blogs about it here.
If you don’t fly Southwest, passengers board in three large groups, A, B, and C. Which group a passenger falls into depends on when you check in. The problem with the current system is that, people in the A group start lining up 45 minutes or more before the flight is ready to board. In some cases, such as Austin-Dallas or Austin-Houston, this is longer than the flight.
Now Southwest has announced it is going to assign numbers within each group. If you’re the 15th person to check in, you’ll be the 15th person to board. This article in the Austin American-Statesman gives the details.
Southwest knew that many customers preferred the old method and that they would not like it. But before they selected a different way, they first tested different options in different locations. The article points out that Southwest spent millions on software to assign seats, but ultimately, in the end, they decided not to go that route.
As your customers, and your business change, take a lesson from Southwest. They tested different options and sought feedback from thousands of customers through a variety of methods. Even though they spent millions on one option, they chose to abandon it because they didn’t think it was the best.
As Will Rogers once said, “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”
Don’t let the changing times pass you by. But think about what you’re going to change and prepare your customers for it.