Can you save a seat on Southwest?

This past weekend, my wife and I flew southwest down to Orlando for ResellingDO 5. On the flight home we saw a curious sight: bags were left on a couple of seats. It made me ask the question – can you save a seat on Southwest?

save a seat on southwest

Southwest’s policy

Logically, I turned to Twitter to ask Southwest. I was surprised with their response:
 save a seat on southwest
It seems like a reasonable thing for Southwest to do – that is, having no policy on the matter. I could see how enforcing such a policy could become contentious.
In my mind though, there shouldn’t be a need for a policy because people should have follow standard etiquette and be considerate. Taking the entire 3rd row on one side of the aircraft seems pretty inconsiderate and downright selfish to me.
Some folks on twitter weighed in:
save a seat on southwest
There is also the security aspect. For all intents and purposes, these bags were left unattended. A reasonable person might assume that the owners of these bags are onboard, but I have seen people deboard aircraft before. Yes, these bags were likely screened by TSA’s finest, but it still gives me pause to see unattended bags.

More details on the folks that saved the seats

It was not truly apparent upon boarding, but I will share what I think happened. When I boarded as A52, I saw row 1 ABC and DEF filled (well, DEF had 2 people but one looked like a gentleman of size, so giving him the benefit of the doubt that he purchased a second seat). I observed folks seated in row 2 ABC passing things back and forth with row 1, and there were interactions with row 3. Row 3 ABC was where bags were left. What I can surmise from this, is that ~4 members of the family pre-boarded, and saved seats for the remainder of the family. This took up 12 seats in the first 3 rows. 

I think Susan said it best:

save a seat on southwest

So, can you save a seat on Southwest?

The answer to this is simple, per Southwest, there is no policy for or against this practice. 
But I would offer that the question really is: Should you save a seat on Southwest? What about an entire row when not a single seat is occupied in that row? I would say no.  
To me, I might be more understanding if folks are trying to save seats further back in the aircraft, but seeing row 3 reserved (and I boarded as A52) seems incredibly inconsiderate. 
What do you think? Is saving an entire row on Southwest ok?

11 thoughts on “Can you save a seat on Southwest?

    • @Carl – I totally get what you are saying but I’m not sure I’m comfortable with the idea of moving a person’s bag… plus I’d imagine despite leaving the bag 2 aisles back, that they might get touch or even combative if I were to move it.

  1. I have written about this before

    and the only way I can see seat saving being okay is if you save it in the BACK of the plane and/or middle seats. I’m for families wanting to sit together (especially with kids), and Southwest makes that tricky to do (unless you have kids under 6) but you have to do it in a way that is respectful to others. Nobody is going to care if you save a few seats towards the back of the plane, but it is galling to try and save the full first 4 rows of the plane!

    • @Dan – yeah – I tend to think folks won’t notice in the back of the plane (unless part of the group is in the tail end of C)

  2. I have been flying southwest for a long time and I think the difference these days is that you now pay for early bird checkin. So nowadays I think SW should have a no seat saving policy as a matter of fairness to those who have paid. Plus a revenue enhancer for them so why not?

    • Kelly – you are exactly right – how is it that they charge for the benefit of early check-in, yet don’t reinforce or backup that benefit with a policy on seat saving?

  3. Me? I tend to be pretty by the board. So if I don’t see actual people in a row, I’ll loudly ask “Whose things are these?”

    Asking that way will most likely get an honest “Mine” from someone. Then I’ll just hand them their stuff.

    Rude and entitled people count on others not saying anything. It’s a good idea to say something, IMO.

    If seats for your entire party are that important to you, buy both the tickets and the early bird boarding all at once.

    Or, as noted, grab a group of seats in row 25 and back.

    • @Micki – I think if I ever see this again, I’ll definitely loudly state to a flight attendant “We have some unattended bags here.” – maybe even add “I’m concerned that this could be a security risk.” I tend to agree – its less egregious if its in the back of the plane.

  4. Pretty much agree with the consensus. It’s OK(ish) to save seats toward the back, but anything in the first 5 rows is particularly egregiously rude. And putting bags there? Really bad. At least have a person sit there and drape their belongings across the seats next to them. To sit in a completely different row with your suitcases across the one behind you? That’s way across the line of rude.

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  6. The consensus on FlyerTalk is that it’s fine to save one non-premium middle seat. No exit row seat, no bulkhead seat. Beyond that you are risking trouble. In which case the more assertive person wins unless he or she is ejected from the flight. So how sociopathic and lucky do you feel?

    Saving a seat in the back half of the plane is much less likely to cause trouble. Moreover, the middles just aft of the exit row fill in last, so that’s the best place to be for space.

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