Real Talkies

Real Talkies

Every cut is a lie. It’s never that way. Those two shots were never next to each other in time that way. But you’re telling a lie in order to tell the truth. –Wolf Koenig.

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Luv, Ant Colony and SouthWest Airlines

August 12, 2010 , , , ,

No, No one found an ant colony in one of the Southwest planes. Southwest airline is very special for me. In 2008, when I moved to Austin, Texas to pursue my graduate degree, I was entering into the world of long distance relationships. For the next three years, My husband was to live in Maryland and I in Texas. We needed a cheap airline with frequent reliable flights, without ridiculous fees for last minute changes and no baggage cost. Southwest was just perfect and met all our needs. It became an essential part of our marriage maintenance strategy. We loved it so much that we bought their stocks. Incidentally, their stock symbol is “LUV” :).  But, what about the Ant Colony?

Southwest is the only airline with an open seating policy. But in 2007, they received several requests by passengers especially business travelers who did not like this “free for all’ policy. The airline wanted to be considerate to the passenger requests but did not want to change their tradition unless it was going to make seating faster. So, like most people when in doubt, they turned to the experts.

A Southwest analyst, Doug Lawson, conducted a simulated study of different boarding scenarios with digital ants. Apparently, boarding a plane and finding a seat in a constrained space is similar to the biological problems ants go through on a daily basis i.e. finding food while dealing with restrictions. Based on this study, he found that assigned seats in some instances made boarding faster by a minute. Southwest decided that it was not fast enough to abandon their long-standing tradition of open seating.

But, passengers did not want to compete for seats on the plane. Therefore, the airline adopted their current seating system. A passenger is issued a ticket with a group (A,B or C) and a number ( 1 to 60). They can still sit in any vacant seat of their choice but are boarded in batches of 30 starting with A (1-30) and hence do not have to compete at the waiting line. 😉

Most of the time, my husband and I get a ‘C’ boarding group and are invariably among the last to board the plane. Our choice is limited to a few seats, sandwiched between satisfied aisle and window occupants. All I cared for is a cheap ticket to BWI and a weekend with my husband. But, it is heartwarming to know that the airline went through all this trouble.



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  1. Tweets that mention Luv, Ant Colony and SouthWest Airlines « Real Talkies -- reblogged this and added:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Andy Palanisamy, Chithra Jeyaram. Chithra Jeyaram said: Luv, Ant Colony and Southwest Airlines. #Airline #Southwest #Ants #Love #marriage […]

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