There is a joke that circulates among some Southwest flyers and critics. It goes something like; “you are free to pick any seat, they all suck”. I am here to tell you that although Southwest seats are nothing to brag about, some are better than others.
Last night I flew on a four-year old (a new plane by plane standards) Southwest Boeing 737-800. Southwest only flies 737’s but there are three variants which differ drastically. Starting from old to new; -300, -700, -800. Southwest flew their last -500 series aircraft in September, 2016. Southwest will retire their last 737-300 at the end of September, 2017.
Why should you care? Cause WiFi’s
Southwest offers free streaming live TV on their WiFi equipped aircraft. As of 2013, all -700 and -800 series aircraft offer this free TV streaming over WiFi. You can also pay $8 per day per device if you want to surf the world-wide web. Remember, Southwest doesn’t offer seat-back TV’s, you must bring your own device, and make sure it’s fully charged.
Being that Southwest will retire its last -300 series aircraft in less than 10 months, they have decided to not invest in upgrading those planes. If find yourself on a -300 in the next 10 months, you will be left listening to your own music or staring out the window. The horror!
But wait, there’s more (room)
The biggest gripe of flying in economy, if there had to be just one, would be leg room. Here is the seat pitch of Southwest’s three variants;
The Southwest -700, which makes up almost 70% of their fleet, has noticeably less leg room than the others, but does offer WiFi/free TV. The -300 has higher than average leg room, but no WiFi/free TV. The -800 on the other hand has higher than average leg room AND WiFi on every jet.
Here is an easy way to help you decide which aircraft is best for you:
-300: More leg room, no entertainment or WiFi
-700: Less leg room, free entertainment and paid WiFi
-800: More leg room, free entertainment and paid WiFi
Clearly, the -800 variant is your best option. In addition to good leg room and free streaming live TV, the planes are newer and quieter. These newer 737-800 aircraft also have larger overhead storage so they can accommodate over-sized carry-ons.
Hopefully you have a better understanding of which Southwest aircraft offer the best seats and entertainment. The next step is knowing how to book a flight operated by a new aircraft, or one with more leg room if that is important.
By clicking on flight #1848 from Phoenix to San Diego we see that it will be flown on the Boeing 737-800. That means you will get the most leg room as well as free live TV streaming to your phone, tablet or laptop.
Some of the Southwest 737-800’s have an upgraded seating surface and a more modern seat-back. Here are a few photos from last night’s flight on the -800 with the latest seats and interior. The headrests can fold on each side as well as being able to slide vertically, helps you from getting a crick in your neck.
Southwest has 170 Boeing 737-MAX7’s on order. These new aircraft are scheduled to begin delivery in 2017. As the MAX7’s start rolling off the assembly line in Everett, WA, Southwest will finish the phaseout of their last -300’s.
The new 737 MAX jets will offer increased fuel efficiency, range, and a more modern/quiet interior. Stay tuned for updates on when you can book your first Southwest 737 MAX flight in 2017!