In a big jump, Southwest announced yesterday that they are now blocking middle seats (by capping the number of tickets sold per flight) through November 30. This is a big move by them since this means they will be restricting seats during one of the busier travel holidays of the year, Thanksgiving.
Southwest Leaves Middle Seats Open Until End of November
Southwest is the only one of the US airlines that does not allow seat assignments – instead, you get boarding positions and pick your seat when you get onboard. If you are group C, you are most likely going to end up with a middle seat.
Except until at least November, that is. This is because Southwest will be keeping middle seats open – unless you are traveling with someone and want to sit next to them – until at least November 30.
What This Means for You and Southwest
Southwest runs “sales” almost every week that make it easy to know you can always get the best price from Southwest when you book between a Tuesday and Thursday. Combine that with their awesome cancellation/change policy and it means you can book your travel whenever you want and then rebook it to save during a sale.
It is important to keep those sales in mind because, by blocking middle seats, Southwest is effectively cutting out a potential 33% in sales. I say “potential” because there will not be full flights for quite sometime so it may not actually cost them that much at all – for now. So far, it has not limited their sale offerings so you should still be able to get a good deal (like with the one going on now until the end of today – September 17).
But, one area where it could cost them a bit is the EarlyBird Check-in fee. This allows you to have the system automatically check you in at the 24 hour window so that you get an earlier boarding assignment – which means a better chance of getting the seat you want. However, without a fear of getting a middle seat, people may be far less inclined to purchase that add-on, and that has always been a good chunk of money for the airline.
So, it may be something that will draw more people to book with Southwest for August through October to guarantee an empty middle seat (since airlines like JetBlue currently are only blocking until October 15). At least now you know you don’t have to worry about getting stuck in a middle seat if you check-in too much past t-24 hours!
I am kind of happy about this move since we are flying cross country with them in early November so it is nice to know we will have three seats for every two of our family members (though family members can still choose to sit together).