Southwest Passengers Gaming the System

Flying Southwest is a challenge.  There are no assigned seats – it’s every man, woman, and child for himself or herself in trying to score exit-row seats and avoid the dreaded middle seat.

Southwest has attempted to attract business travelers with a first-boarding priority, but you do pay for that privilege.

However, priority boarding FOLLOWS the pre-boarders. The pre-borders are those who “need extra time going down the jetway,” as the official announcement goes.  Business travelers began to notice that there are often 30 or more pre-boarders on flights.

In its infinite wisdom, the federal government has regulations that require airlines to provide pre-boarding to those with disabilities who “self-identify at the gate.”  Southwest does ask several questions in screening the aforesaid self-identifiers, but will not disclose the questions. Southwest also prohibits pre-boarders from sitting in exit row seats.  Would that be a policy or is it just that one cannot claim a disability and still qualify for the exit row??  If you can’t walk down the jetway you probably cannot hurl an exit door open and get the slide going.

The bottom line?  Passengers are gaming the system to get better seats and overhead space. Business travelers and others who pay extra for priority are starting to take photos.  Reddit is afire with anger over the fake pre-boarders.  As Jeffrey Colvin has written, “Just assume that when there is a reward system involved at some point there will be gaming.”

In the Barometer’s field we call them amoral technicians.  They get ahead by finding loopholes and capitalizing on them. Put a loose-goosey regulation in place and they will maximize opportunities. You find them operating in the complex rules on financial reporting — it’s how we get accounting fraud, eventually. You find them in Fit-Bit wearers.  They get in their steps by putting their Fit-Bit in a sock in the dryer. They cross the gore line to cut ahead when entering the freeway.  They take cuts in line because line-cutting is not often regulated.

Hence, Southwest flights are loaded with gamers — amoral technicians who have found a loophole. They enjoy a fine seat and overhead space on all their Southwest flights — without paying an extra fee.

About mmjdiary

Professor Marianne Jennings is an emeritus professor of legal and ethical studies from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, retiring in 2011 after 35 years of teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in ethics and the legal environment of business. During her tenure at ASU, she served as director of the Joan and David Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics from 1995-1999. In 2006, she was appointed faculty director for the W.P. Carey Executive MBA Program. She has done consulting work for businesses and professional groups including AICPA, Boeing, Dial Corporation, Edward Jones, Mattel, Motorola, CFA Institute, Southern California Edison, the Institute of Internal Auditors, AIMR, DuPont, AES, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Motorola, Hy-Vee Foods, IBM, Bell Helicopter, Amgen, Raytheon, and VIAD. The sixth edition of her textbook, Case Studies in Business Ethics, was published in February 2011. The ninth edition of her textbook, Business: lts Legal, Ethical and Global Environment was published in January 2011. The 23rd edition of her book, Business Law: Principles and Cases, will be published in January 2013. The tenth edition of her book, Real Estate Law, will also be published in January 2013. Her book, A Business Tale: A Story of Ethics, Choices, Success, and a Very Large Rabbit, a fable about business ethics, was chosen by Library Journal in 2004 as its business book of the year. A Business Tale was also a finalist for two other literary awards for 2004. In 2000 her book on corporate governance was published by the New York Times MBA Pocket Series. Her book on long-term success, Building a Business Through Good Times and Bad: Lessons from Fifteen Companies, Each With a Century of Dividends, was published in October 2002 and has been used by Booz, Allen, Hamilton for its work on business longevity. Her latest book, The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse was published by St. Martin’s Press in July 2006 and has been a finalist for two book awards. Her weekly columns are syndicated around the country, and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Reader's Digest. A collection of her essays, Nobody Fixes Real Carrot Sticks Anymore, first published in 1994 is still being published. She has been a commentator on business issues on All Things Considered for National Public Radio. She has served on four boards of directors, including Arizona Public Service (1987-2000), Zealous Capital Corporation, and the Center for Children with Chronic Illness and Disability at the University of Minnesota. She was appointed to the board of advisors for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operators in 2004 and served on the board of trustees for Think Arizona, a public policy think tank. She has appeared on CNBC, CBS This Morning, the Today Show, and CBS Evening News. In 2010 she was named one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Business Ethics by Trust Across America. Her books have been translated into four different languages. She received the British Emerald award for authoring one of their top 50 articles in management publications, chosen from over 15,000 articles. Personal: Married since 1976 to Terry H. Jennings, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Deputy County Attorney; five children: Sarah, Sam, and John, and the late Claire and Hannah Jennings.
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