May 28, 2024

Southwest Airlines is based in Dallas, Texas.

Southwest Airlines is based in Dallas, Texas.
Image: Hearst Newspapers (Getty Images)

Southwest Airlines is considering changing its notorious seating policy, according to chief executive officer Bob Jordan.

“We’re looking at new initiatives like the way we seat and the way we board our aircrafts,” Jordan told CNBC in an interview on Thursday.

Jordan said the company has been “studying” its seating and cabin arrangements but no changes have been finalized just yet.

Southwest primarily follows an open-seating style, meaning passengers don’t have assigned seats ahead of getting on their flights. Instead, customers are assigned boarding groups; once onboard, they pick any open seat. Those open seats are all the same and don’t come with extra legroom or first-class spots. Other airlines, such as Delta, Frontier, and United, give travelers the option to choose their seats before flying. While customers on Southwest can pay for a priority boarding group to get on their plane earlier, that doesn’t secure a specific seat.

Discussions of a new seating policy come shortly after Southwest reported a loss for the first quarter of 2024, saying it would pull out of four airports and limit the amount of people it would hire. That grim news may also be Southwest’s aim to make up for lost revenue.

The change, though pending, could be the facelift it needs. “Customer preferences change over time and Southwest’s current seating model was designed at a time when load factors were significantly lower than they are today,” Jordan said, pointing out that the company made big changes when it began offering Wi-Fi, power outlets, and larger overhead bins.

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