Man talking(l+r), Southwest airplane(c)

Jeramey Lende/Shutterstock @jojoofficialtt/Tiktok

Southwest Airlines customer says not to fly airline because it’s a ‘scam’

‘I hate southwest for many reasons but this being the biggest.’


Maya Wray


Posted on Apr 9, 2024   Updated on Apr 9, 2024, 11:53 am CDT

Viewers are divided after a Southwest Airlines passenger denounced the company’s early check-in policy as a “scam” in a viral video. 

TikToker Big Joe (@jojoofficialtt) shared his family’s experience traveling on a Southwest flight to Orlando, Florida, during stormy weather that had other passengers “throwing up everywhere.”

For his family of six, he said he paid $300 for the airline’s EarlyBird Check-In. According to Southwest’s website, this service automatically assigns passengers a boarding position 36 hours ahead of their flight—12 hours before general boarding positions are available. 

“While EarlyBird Check-In doesn’t guarantee an A boarding position, it improves your seat selection options to help you get your favorite seat,” Southwest states on its website.

Big Joe said in the April 5 video that he was hoping to get boarding positions that would allow his family to sit together. However, he said he wound up in B7, meaning there were “60 people ahead of me that somehow got to check in earlier.” 

Since the flight was headed to Orlando, where Disney World is located, Big Joe said there were several families permitted to board between the A and B groups, resulting in a longer wait for him and his eight-year-old daughter, who could not join the Family Boarding group due to age restrictions. 

Southwest’s website states, “Up to two adults traveling with a child six years old or younger may board during Family Boarding.” For those traveling with a child aged seven to 13, it also notes, “If you need and request assistance, Southwest will reasonably endeavor to seat a child next to one accompanying passenger (14 and older) to the extent practicable and at no additional cost.”

Big Joe told over 50,900 viewers that he and his daughter boarded to find no side-by-side seats left. It is unclear whether he attempted to request assistance with this issue from a gate agent or flight attendant.

“Of course, my eight-year-old’s going to be terrified. She’s not going to sit alone,” he said in the TikTok. “We had to just try and find our way in, which was an awful experience.”

The flight, which he said was rough due to stormy weather and the resulting passenger illness, did nothing to lift his spirits. 

“My kids were terrified—worst experience. Don’t fly Southwest. It’s such a scam,” Big Joe concluded the TikTok.

@jojoofficialtt Dont fly southwest @Southwest Airlines #southwestairlines ♬ original sound – Big Joe 🦋

Some viewers voiced their own frustrations with Southwest Airlines. “Their biggest problem is the amount of people who use the wheelchair scam,” @couchpotato298 opined.

“People are completing the form for ‘special needs’ so they can board before regular boarding. Simply learn to do that—find their form, make up some injury, and board before Early Bird,” @_marktucker_ elaborated. 

“The age to board w children needs to be raised to at least 12,” a third viewer argued. 

Others said the experience didn’t qualify as a scam, stating that Southwest’s seating policies are widely known and that Big Joe could have chosen another airline where he could pick his family’s seats ahead of time. 

“It’s not a scam, it is one of the reasons they are able to keep costs low,” @foxinsoxwithroxnblox wrote. “The random boarding order is quicker than traditional, so they have less overhead. And they’ve always done it, it’s no secret.”

This is true, according to Simple Flying, which notes that unallocated seating has been a feature of the airline “since its beginnings in the 1970s.”

“Over time, according to the airline, multiple studies have proven that its unallocated seating model has also improved boarding times,” Simple Flying states. “Faster boarding, in turn, generally contributes to more on-time departures and, ultimately, cost savings. The airline claims this translates into cheaper prices for passengers’ tickets.”

The Daily Dot reached out to Big Joe via Instagram direct message and to Southwest Airlines via email.

The internet is chaotic—but we’ll break it down for you in one daily email. Sign up for the Daily Dot’s web_crawlr newsletter here to get the best (and worst) of the internet straight into your inbox.

Share this article
*First Published: Apr 9, 2024, 8:00 pm CDT