Cabin mockup of the 737 MAX 8 with the new Meridian seats – Image: Southwest Airlines
I recently attended Southwest’s #SWAmediaDay and the unveiling of their new Houston Hobby international terminal. As an unabashed Southwest fan, and card-carrying A-Lister (Southwest’s version of elite frequent flyer), it was an excellent opportunity to get up-to-date on what’s going on behind the scenes at Southwest. But the exhibit which stole the show for me? Finally, a pair of the mysterious new blue Meridian seats for my eyes (and derrière) to literally size up.
Over the past few years I’ve noticed an interesting trend: Airlines release new slimline seats, talking them up to make them seem as if they are greatest innovation to passenger experience since the advent of the jet engine. Immediately following, passengers (and media) quickly cry afoul, often before trying the seats out. Because, all change is bad, right? Who moved my cheese?! If we were to try to find middle ground between these two extremes we might arrive at an analogy comparing slimlines to the Rolls-Royce RB211. A jet engine for sure, but by all accounts an expensive flop which had a part in destroying Rolls Royce, crippling Lockheed, and being one of just a few factors which killed the L-1011 TriStar.
But, I digress… We are talking about something as benign as seats after all, right?
An American Eagle CRJ200 taxiing at LAX, with an Embraer 175 following – Photo: John Nguyen | AirlineReporter
Let’s face it… the 50-seat Bombardier CRJ200 isn’t very popular. At all. You’ll find countless articles and blogs about how much flyers dread flying in it, and how all-around terrible the experience was. Complaints were numerous: claustrophobic cabin, tiny overhead bins that fit only the smallest of carry-on bags, no first class, inoperable lavatories, and so on. This wasn’t limited to just one airline either; CR2s are found in the regional fleets for most of the major U.S. airlines. Coincidentally, many of them are operated under contract by the same regional carrier, SkyWest Airlines.
Does the CR2 deserve its bum rap? Maybe, maybe not (but probably). For some passengers, however, there is hope just over the horizon…
These will be the new Southwest ticket counters
William P. Hobby Airport (HOU) has been Houston’s secondary airport since 1969, when (now George Bush) Intercontinental Airport (IAH) became the city’s main facility. Although Hobby has a long history of different airlines operating there, in more recent times, Southwest has been the dominate carrier — by far.
Part oil rig. Part airplane. All airport art outside Hobby’s main entrance.
Currently Southwest has about 85-90% of the flights at HOU, with more than 150 departures per day. The airline has been instrumental with a new expansion at Hobby and hopes to increase the number of flights, especially to international destinations.
During a recently trip through Houston, I was invited to take a behind the scenes look at the construction of a the international concourse at the airport.
N280WN, the new Missouri One, pushes out of an ATI hanger in Kansas City
I adore Southwest Airlines and I’m a proud Missourian. Can you imagine how excited I was to attend last week’s special event?! As soon as my Missouri-centric invite came through, I knew we were dealing with a Missouri One, but held back as I didn’t want to ruin the fun. Those who fancy themselves Southwest experts knew something might be up when N280WN (Penguin One- a SeaWorld plane overdue for de-livery as a result of contract termination) entered the paint shop in Spokane, Washington but never left. What could cause such a delay in the paint shop? A new livery, of course!
My first thought when I put two and two together: “Isn’t our state flag kind of boring?” Okay, fine. It is. But our state seal is pretty sweet and thankfully the folks at Southwest and their advertising firm GSD&M took a bit of artistic privilege. The result? My new favorite special-liveried bird. This isn’t the first time they’ve had little to work with, yet hit a home run. Has anyone seen Florida or Nevada’s state flags? Sort of dull, but absolutely stunning on a 737.