Beginning in early November, Southwest Airlines trades in its cattle call boarding procedure for something slightly more civilized. No, they haven't gone so establishment that they'll actually issue you an assigned seat. But, they have listened to complaints about needing to queue up in your letter group an hour before departure time and have fine-tuned their process. Now, in addition to getting a boarding pass in group A,B or C, passengers also receive a number from 1 through 45 within that group. According to the nifty little illustration on their website, it appears that passengers will board within subgroups of five (i.e., A1-5, A6-10, etc.), thus eliminating the need to stand in line all day to assure that Mr. B44 doesn't snake a seat that rightfully belongs to your B1 boarding pass.
In addition to this major development, today Southwest begins a less-publicized policy change that impacts those traveling with children. Southwest will no longer automatically pre-board passengers with small children before group A. Instead, families with children under four will now board between the A and B boarding groups (Note: Southwest's website also says that families with an A boarding pass will board with the A group. Gee, thanks). While the rationale for the A/B/C boarding groups' numbered subgroups makes sense, the reasoning behind the child boarding change is less clear. What efficiency is served by having families with children board between the A and B groups, rather than before group A? Other than the efficiency of ticking off 45 less people, that is.
So, it looks like your days of lolly-gagging your way to a C-group pass, then jumping the line with your pre-boarding bundle of joy are over. For those of you who had kids just to guarantee yourself the best seat on Southwest, you'll now have to hop on your computer 23 hours and 59 minutes (give or take 60 seconds) prior to your departure time to receive the same seating options. Or, if that seems like too much work, you can also pay $5 per ticket to this website, which I admittedly have not yet tested.