Why don't some airlines (for example Southwest in US) assign seats to passengers? How does it help them? Doesn't it delay the boarding (passengers going back and forth inside the plane to grab their favorite seats)?

Are there any studies to show that this is a better method? Or is there any technical reason why some airlines does this while others do not?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I am not sure this is answerable with facts rather than just guesses. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Nov 16, 2015 at 14:12
  • $\begingroup$ Passengers generally enter the plane from the front. They won't be going back and forth; they'll go as far as they want and grab some seat. And people with reservation in the back trying to pass others trying to take a seat in the front may make just as much delay. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Nov 16, 2015 at 14:16
  • $\begingroup$ If I was to guess, I'd say because it makes the reservation system simpler. Still, many low-cost airlines started out that way and started reserving places later, but usually the reason given is that it was not well received by passengers. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Nov 16, 2015 at 14:17
  • $\begingroup$ There are some passengers that prefer not having reserved seats. If we use Southwest as an example, it allows travellers to puchase tickets fairly close to the day of their flight, and then merely check-in online 24 hours before departure to get the best boarding group and then show up early and and line up early to get the best pick of seats. Contrast that with booking the flight early to get the best reserved seat and then being able to show up later and enter the plane last to get the reserved seat. $\endgroup$ Nov 16, 2015 at 15:02
  • $\begingroup$ I vote to close because this question can't be answered with facts or any other information-source. Provided answer's may be primarily opinion-based or assumptions. $\endgroup$
    – jklingler
    Nov 16, 2015 at 15:11

1 Answer 1


It is mainly used by low-cost single-class cabin airline companies to make the reservation process simpler.

  • $\begingroup$ How does it make the reservation process faster. Would you as a passenger care if you are getting an assigned seat but the process take few seconds more? If it makes reservation process faster, why is it only used by low cost airlines. $\endgroup$
    – Ank
    Nov 16, 2015 at 20:18
  • $\begingroup$ I think "simpler" here mainly means "simpler for the airline" - they don't need to [pay software developers to] keep track of which seats are filled, just a count of how many seats are filled. Similarly, they don't care about the layout of a different planes; for the purposes of reservations every plane can be boiled down to a single "capacity" number. $\endgroup$
    – Tin Wizard
    Apr 13, 2017 at 20:45

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