Read D.F.'s bio and previous columns
October 29, 2007
G-9! N-12! Southwest
Airlines Introduces Bingo Boarding
As you are reading this, I am driving from Minneapolis back to Michigan.
Why didn’t I fly? Because I don’t get treated like cattle in my own car.
If I’m hungry, I can stop and get whatever kind of food I want. If I
want to listen to music, I can do so with as much volume as my system
can muster. If I want to stop and stretch my legs, there is a space
available for me to do so. It’s called the whole wide tootin’ world. And
if I want to check my e-mail, I have several different ways to get
Internet access on the ground.
If you want to do any of this on an airplane, you are out of luck. You,
my friend, are a cow. If they could, they would make you give milk, then
sell it back to you for $8 a glass.
If you had any doubt about this – or about the fact that honesty is the
best policy – consider that the world’s most profitable airline,
Southwest, admits this with no hesitation. They even refer to their
seating method as the Cattle Call. It works like this:
You buy a ticket for the flight. In exchange for your dollars, you are
allowed on the plane. That’s it. You want a seat? Better move faster
than the next guy. Last one in line gets to sit on a hump that will need
to be proctologically removed when the plane lands.
Southwest fliers know the drill so well, they’ve been known to get in
line 30 minutes or more before the gates open. Think general admission
seating at a Who concert, but without any good music. This is the
Southwest Airlines Cattle Call.
Or it was. Southwest announced last week it is “tweaking” the
36-year-old “system” with a new approach that has quickly inspired the
name Bingo Boarding. In the new system, Southwest will assign you a
number when you check in. The number corresponds to a group of five
people of which you are a member. You take your number. It is four. You
go and sit down. At boarding time, the bingo caller starts shouting
numbers. You sit poised and ready. You listen.
“Thirty! Nine! Twelve! Eight million, six hundred fifty-eight thousand,
seven hundred twenty-three! Just kidding!”
You can hardly stand it, the suspense is killing you so thoroughly.
You leap from your seat! You make for the gate! You spot your first
fellow four-group member. It is an old lady with a walker. You trample
her easily. Next is an attractive woman of maybe 35 who is accompanied
by a boy of probably seven. You grab the child’s teddy bear and throw it
10 feet behind him. They will have to go back. Now you’ve just got one
other person to beat.
Uh oh. It’s Edwin Moses. Since he’s gaining on you very quickly, you
decide to try a hockey move. When he starts to pass you, you’ll check
him against the boards, and you’ll get the seat of your choice. Here he
comes. Here he comes . . .
You go into checking position. Edwin has a hockey move ready as well. He
punches you in the nose and lays you out flat. By the time you come to,
you find yourself covered with the footprints of the old lady, the
attractive woman of maybe 35 and the boy of probably seven.
And the teddy bear. Oh, and the plane left without you.
Well, Bingo Boarding does sound like an improvement. There is nothing
worse than trying to pass the time sitting in an airport terminal. If
I’m going to get to watch passenger-on-passenger combat, I might be
willing to hang out there for a change.
This is not to say I’m going to actually get on a plane. What are you,
crazy? Just because they’ve upgraded me from cattle to one of Michael
Vick’s pets is no reason to give up my road trips. But you – have a nice
I’ll just sit at the gate, munching popcorn, watching Southwest Airlines
finally give you the respect you deserve.
© 2007 North Star
Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.
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