The relationship between Southwest Airlines and the Boeing 737 has gone back a long way. Recently, Southwest took delivery of their first Boeing 737-800. For the average person this might be a non-event. For those who realize that previously the airline only operated the smaller aircraft, this is an event worth celebrating. The 800 will allow the airline to operate more capacity on routes and the ETOPS certification will allow the 737-800 to take on destinations, like Hawaii. On the 800’s inaugural flight from Chicago Midway Airport (MDW) to Fort Lauderdale (FLL) my father was able to join along.
My dad, Butch Brown, is a huge Southwest Airlines fan (I think if he ever got a “B” boarding pass he would be so ashamed), so it made sense for him to check out the new plane, with the Boeing Sky Interior. Here is his report in his own words:
The technical facts on the new aircraft are well know: 28% more passengers, quieter and more spacious cabin, larger improved overhead storage bins, durable and comfortable seats, and of course the LED (light emitting diodes) that can portray different color schemes like a soft blue sky and a relaxing pallet of sunset colors. I was anxious to see for myself if these new innovations in look and feel will make a significant difference in my flying enjoyment.
I woke up at 4:30 am with great anticipation of my flight on Southwest’s new Boeing 737-800. This particular aircraft was dedicated and named “Warrior One” in salute of the Southwest Employees’ Warrior Spirit that reflects a “can-do” attitude. My flight aboard “Warrior One” from Chicago’s Midway Airport to Fort Lauderdale was the the aircraft’s maiden scheduled flight. It was to be a day of celebration.
Arriving at the Midway Airport departure gate for Warrior One was a scene made for a party: balloons, roulette game for passenger prizes, special breakfast treats and drinks, cheers from enthusiastic passengers and the opportunity to have your photo taken with “Little Miss 737″. On board the festivities continued with a raffle for prizes ranging from Warrior One ball caps to a free flight on Southwest Airlines.
There was a similar scene when we arrived at the Fort Lauderdale Airport. There was a water cannon salute as we taxied to our gate, followed by a walk through a forest of balloons and rousing applause and cheers from Southwest staff and departing passengers at the arrival gate. This was a very memorable flight indeed.
Now, to answer the question I originally posed before the flight, “am I a fan of the Sky Interior and Southwest’s new 737-800?”
The volume of living space has increased with the sky interior and it is notable. Sculpted ceiling, sloping storage bins, and reshaped window recesses make the cabin appear larger and add to the feel of spaciousness. These literally change your perspective on the real estate airline travelers call home for long periods of time. The Sky Interior has a way of making the narrow body 737 feel almost like a wide body.
I was a little skeptical with the new seats having less seat pitch, but the seat pockets have been moved upwards providing an increase in knee room, and life vests have been moved to the overhead so both legs fit comfortably under the seat in front of you.
Pivoted overhead bins means passengers don’t have to bend to prevent bumping their heads as they leave their seats. Another feature that passengers (and flight attendants) will appreciate are the intuitive placement of switches and call buttons. The reading-light switches and flight-attendant call button are easily identifiable and make it much less likely to accidentally press the flight-attendant call button.
Flying on Warrior One made you almost forget you were flying on a Southwest flight, but in a good way. The one factor that remains constant with Southwest and brought back the reality that this was indeed a Southwest flight was flight-attendants’ impeccable customer service. I have been on other Boeing 737-800s flying with other carriers, but what really made this one unique was the “Warrior One” Southwest Airlines crew. Am I a fan? Absolutely! How can one not be with this combination of new plane, great service and oh yes, bags still fly for free.