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Southwest Airlines boarding policy triggers dispute over window shade

Passengers on major commercial airlines have generally understood best practices for good behavior.

For example, it’s important to have your boarding pass and identification ready before reaching the front of the security line so as to not contribute to slowness of the sometimes tedious process.

Related: Southwest Airlines brings back its biggest free flight offer

Helping others when loading bags into the overhead compartment is a nice courtesy.

Being willing to swap seats with families wanting to travel together is also respectful conduct.

In general, it’s important to respect other passengers’ space. This includes deferring to middle-seat passengers for elbow rests and exercising proper reclining manners.

On Southwest Airlines  (LUV) – Get Free Report, an uncommon boarding policy adds another layer of important etiquette practices.

Southwest does not have passenger seat assignments. Instead, passengers are grouped into A, B and C categories, with numbers assigned to each for order of boarding.

Then passengers select their seats depending on boarding order.

The Southwest boarding method adds fuel to a controversy

One common approach for people traveling together on Southwest is seen in attempts for passengers with earlier boarding privileges to save seats for people who are boarding later.

Southwest doesn’t prohibit this practice. On flights that are not completely full, for obvious reasons, this is less of an problem than on flights that are.

But another debate gained some steam on social media when a couple recently claimed an aisle seat and a middle seat, but then closed the the window shade.

A post on a Southwest Airlines subreddit, written by user Lavender_Hazex13, explains the situation.

“I was flying a very full flight and was in the beginning of the C boarding group,” the passenger wrote. “By the time I boarded there were only single seats left. I walked through the plane until I found an open seat and sat down in a row with a couple in the aisle and middle seat. I took the empty window seat.”

“When I sat down the window shade was closed,” the Reddit user explained further. “Upon sitting down I opened the shade. The couple didn’t say anything but were clearly annoyed that I had opened the shade and spent the majority of the flight blocking the sun with their hands and making side eye.”

The window seat passenger explained feelings experienced over the incident and wondered about accepted expectations for such a situation.

“I felt slightly bad, but I love window seats and watching outside the plane,” the passenger wrote. “My thought is that if they were going to be upset by the window shade, they should have chosen the window seat. What’s the etiquette here?”

Window seat on passenger airplane with shade open.


Travel expert and View From the Wing author Gary Leff weighed in on the controversy.

“If you want to control the window shade in your row of seats then you need to pick a window seat,” Leff wrote

Leff provided a suggestion for passengers not in window seats that prefer the shades closed.

“Maybe if you’re flying Southwest, boarding early, and choosing your seats and (1) you’re not going to choose the window, but (2) still have a preference for the positioning of the shade, then bring sunglasses?” he wrote.

Leff also included a note about his preferences regarding the window shades.

“I like an open window as much as possible, unless the sun is shining through the window so brightly that it interferes with screens,” he wrote. “I don’t like flight attendants who require window shades to be closed on daytime flights from Europe to the U.S. since I never sleep on those flights and I find them less draining when I have light. But there’s not a lot I can do on a Boeing 787 when they control the shades, or when crew come around scolding passengers who open their windows.”

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