Southwest Airlines passengers on board with caption 'How to keep a row to yourself on Southwest' (l) Southwest Airlines plane in sky (c) Southwest Airlines passengers on board with caption 'How to keep a row to yourself on Southwest' (r)

Carlos Yudica/Shutterstock @oconnorfamilylaw/TikTok (Licensed) Remix by Caterina Cox

‘That will backfire’: Traveler shares how to keep a row of seats free on Southwest flights

'I used to get the barf bag out and open it...'


Braden Bjella


Posted on May 25, 2023   Updated on May 25, 2023, 2:30 pm CDT

While most airlines give passengers an assigned seat before they board the plane, Southwest does things a little differently. Rather than provide flyers with a set area to sit, passengers are assigned a group in which to enter the plane. Once they do, they are free to make their own choice about where to sit.

Naturally, this makes the boarding process for Southwest a little more of a challenge than the average flight. Passengers clamor for good seats—window seats, aisle seats, or, if you’re lucky, getting an entire row to yourself.

Many Southwest passengers have methods about how to get and maintain the best possible seat. Now, a user on TikTok has gone viral for sharing theirs.

In a clip with over 1.2 million views, TikTok user @oconnorfamilylaw shows how to keep a row to yourselves on a Southwest flight.


We were told it’s a full flight. Doing our best to keep that seat open. Lol

♬ original sound – O’Connor Family Law

According to the TikToker, the method involves a few steps.

First, occupy the aisle and window seat. Then, fill the middle seat with your own personal items.

Finally, and this appears to be the most important, enthusiastically—and seemingly flirtatiously—offer your seat to any passerby.

In the video, a person can be seen asking another passenger in the aisle if he wants to sit between them. The passenger politely refuses, leading to laughs from the passenger filming the TikTok.

In the comments under the video, users shared their own tips for keeping an open row.

“My trick is to have your aisle seat person fall asleep. And the window seat person rummages frantically through their bag on the middle seat,” suggested a user.

“Best trick is as everyone is filing by be slowly eating a big stinky burger with the middle seat open,” stated a second.

“I used to always get the barf bag out and open it…just stare at the bag and people walk on by!” recalled a third.

However, some users claimed that the method shown in the video would backfire.

“i’m such a people pleaser that i’d sit,” admitted a commenter.

“I would’ve played his little game, kissed him and said thank you,” joked a second.

Further TikTokers simply lamented Southwest’s seating policy.

“i wish southwest would do assigned seating,” said a user. “it’s so nerve-racking.”

“This the only reason why I don’t fly with them,” echoed an additional TikToker. “I love having assigned seating.”

We’ve reached out to @oconnorfamilylaw via website contact form and Southwest Airlines via email.

Update 2:26pm CT May 25: In an email to the Daily Dot, Heather O’Connor, Esq., the poster of the video, offered more insight into what happened.

“Southwest Airlines doesn’t assign seats, so it’s all random seating once you board the plane. My husband and I were on our way home from vacation, and on the flight there, the flight attendant had told us it was a full flight but after everyone boarded, there were probably about 15 rows that didn’t have anyone sitting in the middle,” she recalled. “We’ve had that happen before as well – where they say it’s a full flight but it’s not actually all the way full.”

“So, on the flight home when they said it was a full flight again, I told my husband I was keeping the window seat so he’d have to sit in the middle or a stranger would. He started laughing and said, ‘It’s probably not actually full again, and I bet no one will sit with us if we ask them to sit with us,’” she added. “And so it began.”

O’Connor claimed her husband began asking passersby to join him and his wife. One by one, they refused.

“After the fourth person had turned down his request, I grabbed my phone and took the video to show our kids when we got home,” she shared. “I also posted it on TikTok because I thought it was funny.”

This is the first time either of them have tried such a trick.

“We hadn’t done that ‘method’ before,” she explained. “Usually, we just try not to make eye contact or look for the person we think we would want to be our neighbor. There have been some pretty funny comments on my TikTok video with ideas from other people though that have made me laugh just as hard as when my husband was doing this.”

Unfortunately, the couple was not successful in their endeavor to keep the middle seat open.

“The flight we were on did happen to be completely full so we did have a neighbor, but I guess it worked because she saw what we were doing and thought it was hilarious,” o’Connor recalled. “She ended up being a great flight neighbor with a great sense of humor that we got along with really well (and she sat in the middle seat)!”

Southwest Airlines also responded to the Daily Dot’s request for comment, pointing viewers to an episode of the airline’s podcast regarding its boarding process.

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*First Published: May 25, 2023, 8:01 am CDT