Southwest Airlines eliminates its ‘cattle call’


Southwest Airlines made changes to its "cattle call" seating policy and added upgrades for its business travelers Thursday.

Passengers on the airline, which has a hub at the Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport and flies out of Washington Dulles International Airport as well, will receive a letter and a number designation for their seats, meaning they will no longer stand in lines to reserve positions, Southwest said.

Business travelers also will have the option to purchase a "Business Select" fare that allows them to board first and receive a free alcoholic drink. The fares would cost about $10 to $30 more than a traditional ticket, according to the Southwest Web site.

Additionally, Southwest increased benefits for its Rapid Rewards frequent-flier program, such as allowing customers who fly 16 times in a year to always be in the first group of borders when they fly.

The company streamlined its fare choices and redesigned some of its gate areas as well.

Unlike many of its competitors, Southwest reported profits during the third quarter, earning $133 million. That, however, is down from the previous year, when the company earned $154 million. The airline industry, whose top costs are jet fuel and labor, is being hit by rising oil prices.

Southwest officials did not immediately return calls for comment Thursday.

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