Flying out of Tampa... nice view for November!

Flying out of Tampa… a nice view in November!

For Thanksgiving I flew from Seattle-Tacoma (SEA) to Tampa (TPA) to visit my dad. Since he was letting me use some of his Southwest Airlines miles (thanks dad!) I ended up flying them to visit. Although I am a big fan of the company and people of Southwest, when it comes to flying them — they aren’t my first choice. The big reason is that there aren’t many places they fly to non-stop from Seattle (also no seat assignments, no power plugs, and no buy-on-board food). With my trip to Tampa I was lucky to only have only one stop – at Chicago’s Midway (MDW) – both times. I say lucky since I have had to do that trip multiples times with two stops, which is not fun at all.

File photo of the new interior - Photo: Southwest

File photo of the new interior – Photo: Southwest

Since this was a personal trip, I had no plan to do a story, but the last leg did me in. My final flight from MDW to SEA was on a Boeing 737-800. I was excited because this would be my first Southwest 737-800 flight — it also had the new Meridian seats from B/E Aerospace. However, I wasn’t quite sure if that was a bonus or a downfall. I have read (even here on AR) about the seats and have heard mostly bad things. But after four hours flying back home, I have come to a few conclusions.

The old Southwest seats that I had for three flights.

The old Southwest seats that I had for three flights

During my three other legs (SEA-MDW-TPA-MDW) I flew on Boeing 737-700s with Southwest’s old seats. All my flights (including the last) were totally full and I was in the window seat. The people sitting next to me were all older gentlemen of the same build. For all intents and purposes, the sizing and space were pretty equal for all the flights (well, I probably gained a few pounds over Thanksgiving, but whatever).

For my flight out of Midway, I was boarding number B2 (which was lame because I paid for EarlyBird, but better than C2 I guess). I found the first open window at row 21 and took a seat. My first thought was “holy crap these are hard seats.” Not what I would call a good start.

Realizing that these were the new seats I took a good look at them. Bright blue, nice headrest, looked thin, seat back had storage up top (magazine, safety card) and down below (your stuff). Visually I was a fan. However, I couldn’t help but remember all the drama that took place when the airline first announced them.

The new seat. The person across the way was hella happy.

The new(er) seat. The person across the way was hella happy. She hasn’t tried those hard armrests yet.

When Southwest announced the seats, they said that they were the widest seats ever seen in a Boeing 737. There were some who quickly questioned this claim. The 737 is just as wide when it first rolled out of the factory in 1966 — did Southwest find some pocket of hidden space? Nope. Turns out it had more to do with how the width was measured.

The bottom line is the seats have skinnier armrests that create more seat width. But the seats still take up the same amount of space overall. When I was first reading about it online, it did seem more like a marketing ploy than reality. Then our JL Johnson did his own story defending the seats. Hmm.

Mmm I got some Fritos during two of my flights. But I had room to work.

When I first sat down, it was obvious to me that the seat was wider than my previous flight. It was also obvious that the armrests (on both sides) were thinner and hard as a rock. Like they probably had to use diamonds to cut the things. But sometimes first impressions change with time, so I was willing to give the product (as a whole) a chance.

The new seat back.

The new seat back. I know… best pic ever. Hey, I wasn’t planning a story!

FOUR HOURS LATER…

When I landed I still felt divided about the seat. My elbows hurt and the seat wasn’t as comfy on the back, but I was also able to work on my laptop (wasn’t able to on previous flights) and I truly had more room for my hips. I will rarely pay for more legroom (I am 6’1”), but I am often happy to pay for more width (I am 225lbs). So having more width was a huge bonus.

Fly time!

Fly time!

On the whole I would easily choose the new product over the old. I would say that the seat comfort and armrests are better with the old seat. But the usability of the tray table, width of the seat, and knee room (the looks too if you care) give the new seat the edge. Add on the Boeing Sky Interior (which genuinely gives the feeling of more space) and the whole new product is clearly a winner for me.

#dealwithit

There’s no real reason for this photo other than the Southwest sunglasses are freak’n awesome

It is easy to get angry at airlines for adding in more seats to planes, but it is not always a bad thing.

I just don’t know why Southwest decided to put absolutely no padding on the armrests! Maybe I sat in the seat wrong (although I have many, many years of sitting in seats), but my elbows still hurt hours after getting off the plane. Next time…#BYOAP (Bring Your Own Armrest Padding).

Have you flown these seats yet? Are they better? Worse? And did your arms hurt?

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EDITOR-IN-CHIEF & FOUNDER - SEATTLE, WA. David has written, consulted, and presented on multiple topics relating to airlines and travel since 2008. He has been quoted and written for a number of news organizations, including BBC, CNN, NBC News, Bloomberg, and others. He is passionate about sharing the complexities, the benefits, and the fun stuff of the airline business. Email me: david@airlinereporter.com

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29 Comments
Bobbie Consolino

Out of all the other airlines combined, Southwest may not have the most comfortable seats, however, the flight attendants, crew and pilots are the most friendly, helpful and fun group of people! on a flight home from Las Vegas, a passenger in front of my seat has a heart attack and the entire crew went into action as the most well trained, professional caring group I had ever witnessed. Keeping all passengers calm, and informed as well as the pilots announced an emergency on board and we had to make a quick landing in Denver. My motto is “IF Southwest doesn’t go, we don’t go”. It’s that simple.

Thomas Gaj

That’s the way I feel, I would rather fly Southwest than any other airline!

Hey Bobbie,

Thanks for sharing. Flight crew can be fun and nice, but I think their real test comes when an emergency pops up. Glad to hear that the crew came through and hopefully the passenger was okay!

David

Thomas Gaj

Haven’t flown on the new seats yet. We usually fly Southwest to Las Vegas from Buffalo, New York it’s always a direct flight. Thanks for the info. on the seats.

What else could you ask for? Your luggage fly for free & they always have promotional rates anywhere anytime & everytime… I love ❤️ SWA
MY TAXI IN THE AIR
Frequent Flyer Member

What else could I ask for? Assigned seats and power outlets immediately come to mind.

Stephanie W.

Flew Southwest last night out of Midway to Dallas, with new seats. Found them very comfortable, didn’t really notice the armrest.

As a frequent business flyer I took my first flight on Southwest out of Love field in the mid 1970s. I have been a fan ever since. However their new seat configurations are making me less of a fan. Even though I usually have 20 to 30k or more points at any one time, I will fly a traditional airline for flights exceeding 3 hours. I cannot handle their seats and closeness of seats.

Bigg Benn

I took a R/T flight from BWI to Las Vegas, just returning today. I sat in the new seats leaving and returning on the old seats.

I admired the new changes, however I must agree with the author. The armrest was hard, uncomfortable and a nuisance on such a long flight.

Overall I wish I had hit the jackpot while in Vegas. Then I’d would buy my own plane, hire my own pilot and furnish it with a king size bed and a 55″ Samsung Smart tv of course it’ll be 4k and a curve….lol

If you win — invite me for a ride. I will do a nice review :).

David

william russ

I hate the new seats, they are rock hard. I am A list preferred from 2015, but refuse to be tortured by being crammed into rock hard seats. I have found first class on delta to be less expensive from Oakland 90% of the time

You left out one of the most important improvements with the new seats – the headrest! The new headrests are adjustable vertically and have wings that flip out to hold your noggin while you sleep. I found these to be a HUGE improvement over the old static headrests.

Hey Mark,

You are right! I think I just do not use them too often. I find that help with not hanging my head on my seat-mate when in the middle or aisle seat, but I prefer sleeping with my head on the wall from the window seat. My neck not so much…

David

Steven Smith

Really? The headrest that makes you a hunchback because of its design is the problem. Perhaps Southwest didn’t have headrests before. Even so, older design seats such as on American are fantastic. Slimline, check. More seats: check. No problem for me. An aching neck: problem.

Hey Steven,

I have not found an economy headrest that doesn’t make my neck hurt. Oddly, I normally put my head against the window, which one would assume that would make my neck hurt more, but actually less. I also have one of those dorky inflatable pillows that works pretty well for the long-hauls!

David

Stella Brown

I left Florida to fly to Baltimore and wore a puffer style coat which I sat in..found the coat made the seat more comfortable. Arm rests are too skinny and hard as a rock! !

Stella Brown

Arm rests hard as rocks. .little more leg space. Thanks..Sat on my puffer coat which helped soften the seat and better for my elbows. Attendents very friendly.

Heh… I would feel a bit weird getting on and off the plane in Tampa in a puffer jacket :). But maybe it is worth it!

David

Just flew into Midway. I don’t mind the new seats. Don’t think they are significantly better or worse. Arm rest is too hard. But the tray table is way too small and flimsy. Surface Pro is small & did not fit on the tray. Old seats and trays I could put a full laptop and have room for my complementary soda. Not anymore! Also my husband is a big guy. Every time he moved the tray table on the back of his seat for the poor guy behind him shook and caused his drink to spill. I could see how angry the guy behind my husband was because the space between seat backs is large and you can easily see and communicate with the passengers behind you.

With all that in mind, my biggest gripe is not the seats or even the airplane. What happened to all the seats in the terminal at Sky Harbor Airport? We arrived at the gate 2 hours before our flight. No problems in check in or security. Very nice. But got to the gate and had to stand for two hours. Ugh!!

Mona Signorelli

I flew on the newer seats as well. They seem to be ok. Yes the arm rest were a little hard. So i put my jacket on them. I was fine. I fly Southwest because the crew and pilots are always nice. And funny.

I didn’t mind my flight to SEA earlier this month. I was also bundled up since I always find transit freezing, and the flight was mostly empty so I ditched the arm rest-didn’t use it long enough to feel discomfort…but I hate that there is an arm rest against the window you cannot move, I tried not to use it as I never find it comfy. I did love the leg space and felt very comfortable. We were the first flight out on the new plane and it still had that new car smell. Flying out I had a stopover and missed the new seats. Could be because the plane was full. I’ll have to see what I think on my next trip. Overall I didn’t mind the upgrades.

I am with you not getting why the armrest on the window doesn’t go up. I have asked people and never gotten a solid answer!

David | AirlineReporter

Deanna Peleg

REALLY REALLY would appreciate more non stop flights…I fly often from ft lauderdale to mcarthur islip n.y. the times of non stop flights are ridiculous especially when family is picking up.
Come on SOUTHWEST such a small thing to correct.. love your airline… courteous etc. BUT
help us out..give us more non stop flights..
PLEASE..

Mona Signorelli

Yes your right about that. I love Southwest, but I can hardly get a non-stop flight. I have been thinking of flying with another airlines. But I hate to have to do that. Come on SW….get on board!

We have only flown Southwest out of FLL for 7 years now after bad experiences on Delta time and time again. It seemed like 50% of the time our Delta flights were late including one time when we found out at the gate (no phone or text notifications) that our flight crew was still in ATL waiting for takeoff. That made a horrible red-eye to LAS even more horrible. We had two suitcases seriously damaged by DL bag crews, including a brand new suitcase making its first flight. So we burned up all our Sky Pesos with two round trips in F in 2009 and 10 to HNL and the last trip was screwed up by a delay at MIA due to the midnight shift failing to put the blue fluid into the lavs, causing us a late departure out of MIA and barely missing the one daily A330 nonstop to HNL from ATL. It was the first time in two weeks that the A330 had an on time departure, of course, and probably because the flight was seriously overbooked and they needed to get rid of passengers for free. Delta’s rebooking desk personnel were so blase’ and unfriendly that we decided at that point to never fly Delta again, not even on tickets given to us. We much prefer the friendly Southwest employees, the open seating with far better seat pitch in Y than Delta, and we always get good boarding numbers due to being A-List or A-List Preferred which saves the $30 roundtrip Early Bird fee. We have earned the Companion Pass for 5 years straight so my wife flies for virtually free on every trip; try getting that on any other airline. We have flown close to 300 flights on Southwest since 2009 and only 4 of those flights were late more than an hour (we don’t fly during winter months) and our suitcases have never been damaged, delayed or lost. Like a previous commenter said, if Southwest doesn’t go there we don’t go there.

I think this seat issue on Southwest depends on each individual because our spines are not the same. We’ve flown the new seat -800’s twice on reasonly long trips (DEN-FLL and AUS-SAN) and the only thing that needs improvement is better lumbar support in the lower back. My back hurts after flights with the Evolve seats so I’m glad to see them not being used on the newest -800’s. In my opinion the worst Southwest seats are on the -300’s which will be gone by the end of summer in 2017.

Thank you for the information posted in the article. The seats look very comfortable.

Flown them, the seat is not wider, but the arm rests do not bruise wide hips like they used to.
From the old seats I found a trick I will continue to employ for those of us with pear figures: pop the emergency card between your seat and your neighbor’s, coming up the arm rest on your side. This contains you into your seat without issue of flowing into theirs. Chub is smooshable, LOL, and no one wants to rub thighs. It’s perfectly comfortable, just remember to put the card back.

I’m rarely comfortable on a southwest flight. So more space is the key to my happiness. Really liked the new seats and cabin appearance. My flights are always between 3 & 4 hours, PHX BNA.

No way are the seats or armrests as comfortable as the old ones.!! With free bags …free flight changes.. lower fares.. we will continue to be loyal customers. Just pack Advil for the pain.

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