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Southwest Announces Wider Seats for Coach-Class

One of the keys to Southwest’s success has been its core value proposition: a pretty comfortable seat for a pretty good price. Maybe not the most comfortable seat or the very lowest price, but a pretty good combination of the two.

So the airline’s announcement at yesterday’s Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Germany, of its plans for future seat orders generated considerable interest.

Beginning in mid-2016, all new deliveries of Boeing 737-800 and 737 MAX aircraft to Southwest will feature a new-design seat from B/E Aerospace.

One of the primary determinants of comfort is a seat’s width. Southwest’s current seats are 17.1 inches wide. At 17.8 inches, the new seats will be a marked improvement. According to the airline, “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.”

Other features of the new seats: adjustable headrests; leather-like seat covers; thinner armrests; lighter weight, for greater fuel efficiency.

Southwest claims that seat pitch (legroom basically) will remain the same, at around 32 inches, so the net effect should be an increase in comfort.

For awhile at least, the Southwest value proposition seems safe.

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