Southwest Reveals New Seats… Yay?

Filed Under: Southwest

Last night Southwest Tweeted about “Something Especially Amazing Tomorrow” being announced (today):

It was pretty obvious that Southwest would be announcing new seats, based on the acronym as well as the picture attached to the Tweet, which even had the “BE Aerospace” (a seat manufacturer) logo clearly visible.

Today at Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Germany, Southwest unveiled the new seats which they’ll be installing on their newly delivered planes starting in mid-2016. This includes the 737-800 and 737 MAX aircraft which they’ll be taking delivery of.

Southwest Airlines’ new aircraft seat

Here’s how Southwest describes the new seats:

“The new aircraft seats are the widest economy seats available in the single-aisle 737 market, and offer a unique design that gives our Customers what they asked for: more space,” said Bob Jordan, Southwest’s Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer. “Serving as the launch customer for this seat is just one of several upcoming milestones related to our bold, new look launched in September of last year, and is specifically aimed at enhancing our Customer Experience.”

“The new, lighter seat allows us to continue to improve our fuel efficiency,” said Mike Van de Ven, Southwest’s Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. “This seat selection is just one more reason we are enthusiastic about our fleet modernization plans.”

Southwest Airlines’ new aircraft seat

Southwest Airlines’ New Aircraft Seat

Southwest Airlines has selected a new aircraft seat with unique features for an enhanced Customer Experience. The seat will be delivered on the for the Boeing 737-800 and 737 MAX aircraft beginning in 2016.

I mean, admittedly Southwest is good at what they do, but how excited are you supposed to get when an airline is beginning to install new seats in mid-2016 which don’t include power ports or personal televisions? I’m actually not opposed to the lack of personal televisions since they’re heavy and nowadays most people are bringing their own entertainment. But no power ports — really?!

And I think when Southwest says they made the seats wider, what they’re really trying to say is that they made the armrests narrower, so that there will be even less separation between people.

Southwest Airlines’ new aircraft seat

Goodness gracious, you must be really easy to please if you consider this to be “Something Especially Amazing” in the year 2016…

Bottom line

Don’t get me wrong, ultimately I don’t blame Southwest for going “no frills,” since that’s the market they’ve captured for so long. They’re not installing these new seats for customers, but rather because the seats are lighter and because they enable them to install more seats per plane.

I don’t think anyone can tell me with a straight face that this is something customers should be excited about. The one big mistake Southwest is making, in my opinion, is not installing power ports.

Is it just me?

  1. I agree, power ports should be standard these days, especially if you are investing money on new seats, but I also go through some massive airports where there are five people sitting on the floor around the one concrete column that has two power ports.

  2. No, it’s not just you.

    Power port will get more and more important in the future, with smartphone apps a no frill airline will be able to do order and sales much more efficiently. Think Uber here with credit card details saved, no messing about with cards for the flight attendants. Time saved and more money earned.

  3. I agree that the lack of power ports is dissapointing, but most (many?) Southwest flights are on the shorter side so you, on average, aren’t needing the power as much as on legacy carriers. Not that I’m happy about it, it’s just less important for them as for other carriers.

    Don’t many of United’s new seats not have power ports currently?

  4. The last two times I flew Delta internationally, one of the ad screens on their IFE touted “USB power ports at every seat on every international flight”. Lies. I flew the 777 to Australia and the 767 to Ireland – no power ports anywhere. Don’t advertise it if you can’t deliver.

  5. I thought portable battery pack is very common among travelers? The cost of adding anything that has power on a seat is expensive. However, I would like to see one day airline offer wireless charging service.

  6. @ Kao — Nowadays many of us have a handful of electronic devices which need to be charged, so it’s not practical to carry portable battery packs for all of them.

  7. @ Daniel — They do have quite a few transcons. But even if flights are short, often people are connecting, or they’re coming from or headed to the office. With how quickly batteries die nowadays, having access to power even on shorter flights is vital, in my opinion.

  8. Biggest question is do the seats have wings on the headrest? So difficult to sleep in their current seats.

  9. The extra width on the A320 fleet is becoming more and more important and among the reasons I think VX is the future. You will note how WN here has to specify that it is the widest seat of 737s. They still can’t compete with the Airbus. Unless, of course, you are United and you manage to bungle it.

  10. Not installing power ports might work out to be a smart move in the future. You have to think that eventually a battery will be invented that can last a week or longer. There is a huge market demand for longer lasting batteries and it will eventually happen. We will one day look back at 2015 and laugh at how people are handcuffed to power outlets on the concrete pole at the airport.

  11. Other than saying how “wide” the seat is, nobody has actually said how wide (in inches) the seat is.

    Southwest is a joke; these seats are a joke. And I agree – no powerport was the WRONG decision in today’s market.

  12. @Stan, but that’s way off in an unknown future. These seats are being installed next year. They should have power ports. Even longer lasting batteries will need to be charged.

  13. Power ports are mostly a PITA as they are often poorly located and you need a long cord dangling around. I just carry a battery pack (a good one from Omaker with dual 2a smart output). Enough to charge a phone multiple times and charge my tablet. Nobody can use a laptop on a WN flight…

  14. I’d much rather have seat cushions that actually cushion – instead of the thin cheap cushions most economy seats have. And it doesn’t look like these new seats will be any better.

  15. Lucky – FWIW Southwest has free TV you can tune into on your portable devices or laptops. That is their way of not installing TVs (and saving a ton of weight). Frankly I don’t mind this because then you aren’t dependent on equipment that may not be functioning in your exact seat, etc.

  16. Definitely don’t mind the lack of screens since we use iPads already. The Southwest IFE works really well for my family right now and if it cuts down on weight and keeps fares down, I’m all for it. The power question is more of a sticking point for me too, as I often fly Southwest coast to coast with a laptop (usually with a stop but connections are so short on Southwest there is rarely time to recharge). I travel with a very compact charger pack for my tablet and phone, but not so easy or compact to do with a laptop.

  17. For coach seats, those look pretty good TBH. I’ve always thought WN has some of the more comfortable coach seats available today, this seems to continue that trend.

  18. @coalharbour
    So true. It looks like another case of a narrow aisle seat underseat storage space.

  19. Recline? New seat width? Pitch with the thinner seats? Reminds me of a politician answering the question they wanted, not the one you asked.

  20. Details on the new seat:
    The new seat is 17.8 inches wide with a “C shape” design compared to the 17.1 inches and “L shape” design Southwest has on its current seat. It has an adjustable head rest (does up and down; and has side wings) and two backseat pockets, one for Southwest’s promotional and safety materials and another for passengers’ items. The seat pitch will remain at 32 inches.

    The new seat seems to be the widest (17.8″) across 737’s in the US domestic market; however Delta has the widest (18.25″) with the E-170 and E-175 in the overall US domestic market.

  21. I disagree, power ports are not a killer issue. Are you doing 10+ hour flights on a 737? No!

    For short and medium travel, charge your dang devices or bring a power pack. This is a minority problem. Many people nap during a flight or read a book.

    I was on Alaska Airlines recently, which does have power on the seatback. But they are angled downwards so you can’t SEE it to line up the jacks for 110V. Had to crane my head over into the aisle to figure out how it’s arranged. Plus it can end up being a tangle of wires that your row-mates are going to knock loose when they get up to use the lav.

  22. @ Vicente — Of course respect your opinion, but it goes beyond the flight itself. For many, electronic devices are already empty by the time they get on the plane, from having to get to the airport, to having to navigate the airport, to having to wait for the flight.

  23. @Reine — The USB power ports were there on your two international Delta flights. You just need to know where to look for them.

  24. @Stan

    Eventually is indeed the correct term, problem is that even if a new battery chemistry with revolutionary batter life and low cost was invented tomorrow if would still take time to turn it into a product ready for production.

    Then you have to either build new factories to produces it or convert current ones with\out stopping world battery production.

    Then producers have to integrate it into their devices probably starting with high end devices since in the beginning there will be limited batteries available, so it will take a while before devices not on the high end are available with the new battery type.

    Then there is the natural cycle of replacement for devices, unless you are gadget fan you don’t run out and buy new devices every year.

    Of course if such batteries was to become available you would also see a high increase in demand especially from electric car manufacturers like Tesla or with the longer range Leaf from Nissan or Volt from GM coming 2017. About 40K USD of the price of Tesla Model S 85kwH is the battery system. A Model S with 700 miles range and perhaps even lower price? Think that would crate some demand, and that is without any increase from the BMW 3 series cost car that Tesla aims to release in 2017/18

    A very optimistic estimate and frankly wild guess would be a least 9 years if enormous amount of capital is thrown on the minute the new technology is discovered, this would be 3 years to get it ready for production, 3 to ramp up production such that all mobile devices can uses it and 3 years to get most of the devices in the marked replaced. Personally I don’t think that would happen, especially as it will probably take longer in the first phase.

    B737 heavy maintenance is on 6 year schedule, it would be easy to rip out unneeded power points and save weight then since the seats are taken out for inspection and repair anyway.

    You got to plan for the marked of today and the near future, not some dream a decade down the road.

  25. As others have pointed out, the lack of power at each seat is only a mild inconvenience. The lack of TV’s is a non-starter, since WN has free directv and pay VoD over wifi. Of course, power ports would make that Wifi-based IFE more useful for longer flights, but it’s still a better proposition than AA/UA/DL considering it’s free.

    @Max – thanks for the further details!

  26. So here are my thoughts. SWA wants to be a major player international. It’s just starting now. They will crank up Hawaii with the 737 max. They are embattled in a major labor war with the pilots, mechanics and ground staff. SWA needs every reason for myself and others to fly them. By not putting in power ports or in seat video they become the one airline without them.

    It may not seem like a big deal but it is. I fly anyone but SWA for any flight over 2 hours. SWA is not the Texas two step they once were. Trans-cons are the norm now and soon Hawaii. The most successful airlines in the world have always done a little bit extra. SWA could have done that here.

  27. Southwest made a big mistake not opting for power ports. I was at the expo (and still am here in Hamburg visiting family), and heard the news: no power ports and no embedded IFE. At first I was upset about both things, but then I realized that SWA already has a good non-embedded IFE on all wifi enabled planes (fleet wide wifi in 2016). The power ports though, that disappoints me hugely. The most we can do is wait and see if they catch on and install them!

  28. I don’t travel often, usually 2 round trips a year. Usually Sea-tac to Austin international. That a 4-5 hour flight. I’m a gamer, so I usually have my laptop on, playing some game or another. Normally I fly Alaska, but today I’m flying Southwest. I just saw this and a few other articles saying how they don’t have in seat power, and I have to say, I’m very disappointed. I already know how this whole flight is going to go, just off of that one little 1″ by 1″ detail not being there. I’m going to play on my laptop for 1, maybe 2 hours before it dies, then I’m going to get on my phone, and maybe get another hour. Then I’m going to be bored, and daze in my seat, and get mildly sick from the heat and motion. Fun times.

    Honestly, I’m probably going to stick to Alaska from now on. $25 baggage fee, or no power outlet? Let me pull out my wallet real quick.

  29. I will add that as much as I love flying Southwest, I due tend to look for Virgin America flights first because they have power outlets available to all passengers between seats. If those flights aren’t within my grasp, then I fall back to the no frills, no power outlets Southwest. This is mos def a bad upgrade decision on their part by not including the power outlet seats. That’s a lot of future money they are missing out on. I’d pay an extra 30 to 50 bucks per flight to get that option. I kind of consider that a no frills option in today’s world.

  30. I totally agree with you. I avoid flying Southwest because of this. When I’m on a multiple-leg flight, there are times I’m not able to charge my phone/tablet/computer at the terminal because either there isn’t enough time between flights or other people are charging their devices (and several of them at once!). It makes absolutely no sense why they don’t have power ports. Games, movies take up a lot of juice and we’ll be lucky if there is enough power for the entire flight. It would certainly suck if you ran out of power and you used an e-boarding pass. I don’t consider this to be a frill. It’s a necessity. People are going paperless, meaning no paper boarding passes.

    And the seats, absolutely horrible. They are so uncomfortable. My a** hurt so much after the first left of my trip that I was dreading the next leg.
    Honestly, I fly American Airlines because most of the time I can get flights with ports.

  31. I agree lucky, the last time I flew on southwest my phone was on 1% and died immediately. Then I had no entertainment for 4 hours. 🙁

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