Trip Report: Southwest’s First Day With Bingo Seating at LAX

Southwest, Trip Reports

As I mentioned briefly, I flew to Vegas yesterday morning on one of the first five flights out of LAX using the new Bingo Seating boarding process. Since I’m actually attending the BlogWorld Expo conference, I figured, hey, why not actually BLOG while I’m here. (And by the way, if anyone else is here, send me a note and I’d be happy to meet up before I head home today.)

November 8, 2007
Southwest #1669 Lv Los Angeles (LAX) 625a Arr Las Vegas (LAS) 730a
LAX: Gate 14, Runway 24L, Dept :01L
LAS: Gate C18, Runway 25L, Arr :04E
Aircraft: N425LV, Boeing 737-700, Canyon Blue Colors, ~70% full
Flight Time: 48m

I was out my door by 5a and at the terminal by 530a. Unfortunately, the lines were long, and I headed outside to wait. It ended up taking 20 minutes, less than I would have guessed. That may be partially because they’ve opened another few lines of security. To get there, you walk up some stairs to the mezzanine level and it pops you out right near gate 1. IMG00142It may not be ideal, but it’s better than not having the lines.

I was at gate 14 at the end of the concourse, and I walked by a huge balloon ad (at left) for the new SFO service (which they’ve already decided to increase in size by 50% to 12 daily flights). Further down the concourse, I found that they are FINALLY renovating the restrooms at the end of the concourse. Those disgusting, awkwardly shaped bathrooms have had it coming for a long time.

Finally at my gate, I looked around and saw a handful of lettered and numbered poles sticking up and one very confused looking guy trying to figure out where to stand in line (at right).IMG00143Nothing else was different except that they had moved the chairs around to accommodate the new lineup. That didn’t seem right, so I went up to the empty podium and asked the supervisor at the gate how things were going. She said they were just getting underway but so far so good. I asked about the shabby appearance and she said that it all had to do with airport approvals. The approval for the permanent boarding markers came Monday and they’re still waiting for the new seats with powerports and kids play area to be approved. I don’t have anything else to back up that claim, but it certainly wouldn’t surprise me to see LAWA acting so slowly.

By the time we were done talking, I turned around to see people milling about. Part of that was because there were no seats left now that everyone wants to sit down (big problem). But the other part is that there were still some people wandering around aimlessly looking for their usual A, B, and C lines. The gate agents weren’t doing a great job of informing people either. There were no announcements about what was happening before boarding.

So at that point, I took a seat. When they decided to board, they did so with no waring. All of a sudden, I hear, “Ok, A 1-30 can now board.” Uh, what? I was A26 and I had been sitting down, just like half the other people. So people jumped up and came at the door from all different areas. As we walked on, I asked, “Did you call for A people to line up?” She said, “No, we don’t need to line up anymore.” If this is how it’s going to be, it’s actually worse. I think that she just needs to be taught that she needs to call the A people to line up a minute before she actually boards them.

Once onboard, there wasn’t much to say. It was my favorite kind of day to fly. There was a low marine layer that made it gloomy on the ground. But a couple minutes after we blasted off, we were through it and into the morning sun. The picture below was the view out my window as we came back over the coast on the way toward Vegas.


They handed out oj and water, but I had my own so I passed. I tried to sleep a little, but the guy next to me was pretty talkative for it being so early in the morning. Fortunately, it was a short flight, and we had a nice tour of Vegas before looping back around to land toward the west.

The conference itself has been fun so far. IMG00155You get a great mix of people from the fertility doctor I met who just started blogging to the big corporate blogs of the world. Is there an airline tie here? Well, yes. Southwest has signed up as the official airline sponsor, and I think that’s a very smart move. They’re reaching out to a demographic that is being ignored by many others. I stopped by their booth to munch on some honey roasted peanuts and get airline-dorky with them. At left you’ll see SWA bloggers Brian Lusk and Paula Berg waving to the camera.

On Monday, I’ll have the return report.

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9 comments on “Trip Report: Southwest’s First Day With Bingo Seating at LAX

  1. I flew out of Los Angeles to Phoenix this morning (flight 236), 9 November, and they seem to have gotten at least a little better at explaining the new process.

    To start, the agent at check-in made mention of the new process and how we should line up. Starting at about an hour before the flight, the gate agent made brief announcements about the new boarding process, explaining that groups line up by the pole with their number. Our gate agent also made annoucements regarding the change that families with small kids not seated in the A Group were to board between the A and B Groups and not at the begining. These announcements were repeated about every 15 minutes until boarding began at 20 minutes to departure.

    As the boarding agent called for everyone in the A Group to line up, he again explained that we needed to go near the pole with our number, with 1-30 on one side and 31-60 on the other. As I had A 56, I simply stood at the back of the A 31-60 line near the 56-60 sign. Additionally, a supervisor was there in the middle of the line to help those with puzzled looks on their faces.

    Overall people seemed to figure out what was going on, even if most were a bit puzzled by the changes. The biggest issue I found was that passengers did not seem to know that they needed to stand by their number, as there were several people who moved forward/backward in line as the supervisor explained the process. I will also add that while the signs in use at LAX are a bit difficult to understand just what is going on, I didn’t notice much better signs leaving the gate in Phoenix. Then again I had been up all night flying from Maui and wasn’t paying too much attention.

    It was nice to not have to get in line until about 5 minutes before boarding, and the numbering seemed to make for less stress in terms of getting right to the front of the line and staking a claim. Then again, my flight was only about half full and there was only one little kid on the flight so there weren’t a lot of people to line up and no big rush to preboard. It was interesting to note that the preboard announcement specifically mentioned “medical preboards only.”

    I think with time (and better signage and passenger familiarity) it will make boarding a little less stressful for some by eliminating the need to get to the gate as early as humanly possible. There still is, however, the need to line up and wait, albeit for a much shorter time. If they really wanted to let people stay seated until the last possible minute it would have been easier, I think, to simply create more lettered groups and make them smaller.

  2. Thanks for the report, Nick B. I’m glad to hear that things are getting better. Those poles, by the way, should be replaced with the nice new ones very soon now that they have approval from the airport.

    I figured that being on the first bank of flights under the new boarding process would be ugly, so I’m glad to see they’ve gotten things fixed quickly.

  3. I’m at PHX right now, waiting for my flight to LAX. I experienced the new boarding procedures earlier today at PVD. I had A-47. The gate staff called for A 1-30 and A 31-60 to line up a little early. It seemed like the A 31-60 folks were a bit more on the ball as they all lined up at the right spot. It looked like none of the A 1-30 folks had lined up. Anyway, one of the gate staff went through the line to make sure everyone was in the right spot. When they called A 1-30 to board, you could tell that a lot of them were not in line, as they just scrambled to the gate. Only 17 had boarded before the staff called “A 31-60, you may now board.”

    For my flight from PHX to LAX, I have A-19. The flight’s delayed, so I’m relaxing at the Starbucks near the gate, comfortably knowing that my spot in line is saved (and checking my flight on Flightaware).

  4. Flew PHX-SJC yesterday. PHX has the nice new brushed metallic poles with monitors showing what boarding group is up compared with the dowdy temporary looking ones at SJC. Boarding was pretty organized, and while some people were standing around well away from new poles, nobody was standing around right at the poles. PHX now has some laptop oriented tables with barstools and power plugs–a nice addition especially since more people will now be sitting rather than standing. As for the A1-A30 group, A1-A15 appears to be reserved for the new Business Select fare holders; it’s usually nearly empty for now as they just started selling this new fare yesterday. Then the very frequent flyers (“A-List”, 32 paid one way trips per year to qualify) get the next boarding passes, so they get A16 through however many A-Listers there are booked on the flight. Anyway, it’s a nice improvement.

  5. Yep. When I was in PHX and they called the A group to line up, there was one person who had purchased the Business Select fare, so he had A-1. The next people in line were A 17 and 18 who were both members of “The A List”. When they called us to board, I asked the gate agent, “What happened to A 2-15?” and he said, “Oh, those are reserved for Business Select.”

  6. At DTW, the gate agents were doing a phenomenal job of explaining the new process to customers… and started the “line up” announcements before the inbound flight had even fully deplaned! But, you could tell the ground crew was fighting an uphill battle… the new system is just so darn complicated!

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