I don't want to start an "I hate Southwest Airlines and will never fly them because of this" string...
However, the last three times I've been booked on them and tried to get my boarding pass on line, after entering my confirmation number and name, I got the screen with the baggage handler icon (with the crossed flags indicating 'stop') and a message that said due to Southwest policy, restrictions, or fare rules the boarding pass could not be issued on line. And, I was forced to go to the airport earlier than planned to get my boarding pass.
Now, after this happend the 2nd time, I called them and was told that they issue only so many passes on line and that for those passengers that could not get a pass on line, they had to show up at the ticket counter with an ID
and get the pass from the agent. When I got to the airport for that particular flight, the line was long so I tried the kiosk. It spit out an "A" boarding pass and I was on to my gate. Now, as most of you know, "A" is issued to the first 45(?) passengers so I can't believe they allow on line checking for less than 45 passengers.
When it happened the third time just yesterday, I called them again and explained that, due to their open seating policy, on line check-in was more important to me with them than any other airline because I could check in on line early assuring myself of an "A" boarding pass and still take my time getting to the airport. The agent was very courteous and kept researching the issue and even tried to re-enter my confirmation number in her system because she was told by her supervisor to do so would alleviate the problem. It didn't work and she told me the same story: that they issue only so many on line boarding passes and that I would have to check in at the airport. And again I left for the airport earlier than planned and again got an "A" boarding pass at the kiosk.
My question is, I've never experienced this issue with any other airline. Why does Southwest do this or, more importantly, why don't they try to alleviate the problem? Since I can get a pass at the kiosk, it is no different than getting the pass on line. And getting a pass on line reduces their costs because ultimately they won't need as many kiosks.
Now, I have noticed the only pattern with these three flights was that all three were to the San Francisco bay area -- San Jose and Oakland.
I like Southwest in general and don't even mind the open seating policy. However, being able to get a boarding pass on line is very important to me because I am typically working on something up to the last minute. These three incidences have shaken my confidence and unless I can figure out why it happens I will try to avoid them as leaving for the airport 2 to 3 hours early just to ensure I get an "A" boarding is getting to be a big inconvenience for me.