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"Customer of Size?"
June 27, 2014 5:21 PM   Subscribe

Have you taken advantage of Southwest Airlines Customer of Size policy? Does it work like I think that it works?

If I'm reading the policy right, it looks like a "customer of size" gets two seats for the price of one. Even if the flight is overbooked, you get to keep the second seat *and* get a refund for it afterwards. Is that really how it works? And you get to pre-board? There must be a catch somewhere.
posted by anonymous to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
That's the way I read it. I think SW is accepting of the fact that us "customers of size" are out there, and are more attempting to make sure the flight isn't overbooked by mistake and someone unintentionally gets bumped off a flight because the extra seat need wasn't anticipated. SWA is usually on the upper end of customer service so it's nice they extend this offer with no strings.

The fact that they charge you for it up front probably has more to do with avoiding normal-sized people taking advantage of this liberal policy just to make sure they don't have a neighbor (even though they say it helps them with the logistics and you with embarrassment, which are also both true). I wouldn't be surprised if they did some computer magic at the counter (hence the requirement to visit there when you board) to mark the ticket as 'yes, this really is someone who needs the seat, not someone who is gaming the system' and thus eligible for refund.

Having said that, I have not flown since the beginnings of this type of policy. While at that point I was able to get the armrest down, my neighbor did cheerfully offer up this gem: "So, you must be one of those people they're going to start making buy two seats, huh?" Asshole.

Enjoy your trip.
posted by SquidLips at 5:35 PM on June 27 [5 favorites]


This is odd:

Customers of size who prefer not to purchase an additional seat in advance have the option of purchasing just one seat and then discussing their seating needs with the Customer Service Agent at their departure gate. If it is determined that a second (or third) seat is needed, they will be accommodated with a complimentary additional seat(s).

So it seems as if customers of size have 2 options:

1. Pay for 2 seats, get refund for second seat afterwards, IF you request it. I can't see them making this easy.
Or
2. Book like normal people, and then get the seat free at customer service.

Why would someone do #1 if #2 makes it easier?
posted by hal_c_on at 6:01 PM on June 27 [1 favorite]


/Why would someone do #1 if #2 makes it easier?
It would enable you to sit in the part of the plane you want to, on a nearly full flight the empty seats would probably be in an undesirable location such as beside the lavatory.
posted by Harpocrates at 6:13 PM on June 27


So it seems as if customers of size have 2 options:

1. Pay for 2 seats, get refund for second seat afterwards, IF you request it. I can't see them making this easy.
Or
2. Book like normal people, and then get the seat free at customer service.

Why would someone do #1 if #2 makes it easier?


To guarantee that you get the 2nd seat ahead of time in the event that the plane is overbooked.
And to ensure that you don't have to discuss the situation with a customer service agent face-to-face with everyone else in line staring at potential "Customer of Size."

OP, though I don't have experience with this, after reading through the policy and the FAQ, it does appear that you've interpreted the policy correctly.
posted by Sal and Richard at 6:19 PM on June 27 [1 favorite]


It would enable you to sit in the part of the plane you want to, on a nearly full flight the empty seats would probably be in an undesirable location such as beside the lavatory.

Are you sure about this, because #2 would be done at the departure gate, and that cs agent can let you on anytime to pick your seat as the tix don't have seat numbers.

In order for your theory to work, size customers would have to be allowed on first if they choose #1, but last or at least not first, if they choose #2.

It's really ambiguous...at least to me.
posted by hal_c_on at 6:24 PM on June 27


And to ensure that you don't have to discuss the situation with a customer service agent face-to-face with everyone else in line staring at potential "Customer of Size."

That would make sense, but that's not what the policy says. Even if you do book online, you still have to stand in line for a cs agent in advance of the flight to be eligible for the refund.

Domestic U.S. Travel: Customers of size may check in online or at a Self-Service Check-in kiosk to reserve their boarding positions, but they must see a Customer Service Agent to receive the required documents and be eligible for a refund after the flight.
posted by hal_c_on at 6:30 PM on June 27


Why would someone do #1 if #2 makes it easier?

There doesn't need to be a clear reason why a customer who has perfect awareness of all options would choose one of them. Customers often don't know about all the options. Not everyone is going to read that specific webpage, and even some people who do read it won't do a perfect job of understanding and remembering it. Customers don't do things perfectly — if you want to get your customers to do something, it can often make sense to give them a couple different ways to do the same thing.
posted by John Cohen at 6:45 PM on June 27 [1 favorite]


There doesn't need to be a clear reason why a customer who has perfect awareness of all options would choose one of them. Customers often don't know about all the options. Not everyone is going to read that specific webpage, and even some people who do read it won't do a perfect job of understanding and remembering it. Customers don't do things perfectly — if you want to get your customers to do something, it can often make sense to give them a couple different ways to do the same thing.

I don't think I'm explaining this correctly.

With option #1, you have to pay double, see an agent, and then go through their process for a refund.

With option #2, you pay for one seat, see an agent, and that's it.

My suggestion is for customers to take option #2. That's all.
posted by hal_c_on at 6:50 PM on June 27 [1 favorite]


From the Southwest Airlines FAQ:

Why would a Customer of size purchase a second seat knowing they can get a complimentary second seat at the airport?

Having a second seat purchased in advance allows us to account for the inventory need and greatly helps reduce the likelihood of an oversale situation (having more confirmed Customers waiting to board than seats on the aircraft). Also, there are a number of Customers who do not want to be approached at the airport or have a conversation with an Agent about their seating needs. These Customers of size prefer to know they have the number of seats they require, and we wanted to give them that choice. We will also refund all extra seat purchases, even if the flight oversells.

posted by DanSachs at 7:12 PM on June 27 [4 favorites]


I have used this policy on Southwest although it was some time ago. Option 1 is when you know you need the extra seat. You have it pre-purchased, you are getting on the plane early and there was a card you put in your "extra" seat as reserved so that no one takes it. After the flight you can call them for the refund. I have had no issues on getting a refund. The upside was there was no consultation at the gate needed. I did not have to worry about a line of other folks taking care of their business at the gate. So for me it was worth it to make my travel more hassle free.

Option 2 would makes sense to me if you are not sure about your size relative to the airline seat. Or if going through the line at the counter or gate works for you. It does seem to have the advantage of not tying up those funds until the refund is processed. My refund happened after my trip when I called them.
posted by bhdad at 10:37 AM on June 28


Southwest has provided me, without fail, fantastic customer service. For example, on a recent trip back from Uruguay, I had a 12+ hour layover in Miami. I asked Southwest if it was at all possible to not wait 12+ hours, and half an hour later I was boarding a flight, with no change ticket fees, piece of cake.

I fly a lot, and I fly Southwest whenever I can, because for years they have always provided exceptional customer service. I'm sure the same would hold true for customers of size.
posted by special agent conrad uno at 12:44 PM on June 28


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