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Passengers need to play by the rules

Q: In response to a recent Q&A concerning the Southwest flight attendant who held up a flight departure until he or she got enough passengers to switch seats with a family traveling together so that they could all sit together, here's my take on the situation.

As a flight attendant myself for 25 years I can assure you there is "something wrong with this picture!" No flight attendant has ever had the authority to delay a flight. Only the captain can do that.

My educated guess as to how this scenario played out is as follows: The family boarded late and they refused to sit down until they could get seats together. At departure time, the flight attendant was not able to report to the captain that the cabin was secure, as required, because the family was still standing in the aisle.

An on-time departure being of paramount importance in the airline industry, the captain had the choice of either throwing the family off the flight (which would have entailed a trip to the chief pilot's office) or instructing the flight attendant to attempt to accommodate the family by asking others to move. This is what he or she did, relaying the captain's message that they would not push back until all the passengers were seated (as required by FAA regulations).

The flight attendant's announcement does sound as if it were somewhat undiplomatic -- but who knows what got lost in the translation! I absolutely do not see that Southwest Airlines should or will impose any discipline on this employee.

A: Thanks for the input. I do think the passenger who wrote in, however, has a valid point. Some passengers paid extra for early boarding so that they could sit where they wanted, and Southwest has a policy not to preassign seats. The flight attendant threatened the passengers who played by the rules with a delayed takeoff and, most likely, missed connections, and rewarded those passengers who didn't play by the rules.

Honestly, I think the passengers who didn't play by the rules should have been the ones inconvenienced. And I'm sure a more diplomatic approach such as "I have 10 free drink vouchers to the first two passengers who would so kindly switch seats" would have been more appropriate and effective than a threat.