Don't Tamper With the Magic Formula

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Did those in charge of Southwest Airlines forget to read the New Coke chapter when they were in business school? How else to explain the airline's recent test of assigned seating?

For 35 years, it's allowed passengers to sit on a first-come, first-served basis. But now it's tampering with that feature to see if it can save time on turning around its planes. What's odd, of course, is that Southwest is usually held up as an example for quick turnaround and that quick turnaround is partly because of unassigned seating.

The AP's Thomas Watkins gets the skinny from spokeswoman Marilee McInnis. "Open seating has been a big part of our success in allowing quick turn times," said McInnis, noting that a new reservation system is being installed to handle assigned seating and international flights. "But times are changing, and we have technologies we didn't have before."

Ah. A new reservation system. Let the software dictate the business plan. Always a wise move. Some passengers, of course, aren't happy: "'These guys are smart, why change something that's not broke?' asked Phoenix resident John Michael. 'The only people that do this are dinosaur airlines.'"

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