Southwest Hawaii Update

How Will Southwest Overhaul Impact Hawaii Flight Comfort?

Southwest just announced it’s time for a change to aircraft interiors after 8 years, among other things. How will that impact comfort on flights to Hawaii? In a word, unsure. The airline will revamp their cabins on 737 MAX airplanes that will soon be delivered. Southwest has more than 500 of these aircraft on order.

We are already left wondering whether or not the seating will be as comfortable as is currently the case of Southwest Hawaii flights. While overall comfort isn’t great now, as is true throughout the industry, the airline does offer the most economy-class legroom of any airline flying to Hawaii.

We hope that is still the case a year from now when the new seats and aircraft configurations debut. After all, why install German-brand Recaro 3710 variant seats that are lighter (about 17 pounds each) and thinner if you aren’t also trying to add more passengers? The design came together under guidance from London-based Tangarine.

“A world-leading aviation design consultancy. We have created some of the most innovative and beautiful cabin interiors flying today and solved some of the most complex puzzles in aircraft seating design in the industry.”


Southwest said “The design is based on extensive research covering Customer and Employee perceptions of color, comfort, and their aspirations for the overall onboard experience. The design brings to life Southwest’s warm energy with deep blue tones, sky blue accents, and a nod to the Southwest Heart woven throughout the carpet.”

Southwest has not indicated that they will have more than the current 175 seats per plane. So at least for now, there’s no clear indication of more or less legroom ahead. No matter which way that goes, you’ll be pleased to know that Recaro says of their seats, “high comfort is possible even at low pitches.”

Comfort on Southwest Hawaii flights of five plus hours is of utmost importance.

We can fly easily for two or three hours on hard seats, but it gets infinitely more challenging to be comfortable on longer flights to Hawaii.

Southwest Recaro brand seating.

New seats look to be as comfortable as sitting on a rock.

The highlight of the upgrades planned will be these new Recaro brand seats. We’ve heard people say that these may not recline (we can’t confirm that) and that they will be as comfortable as flying on Frontier Airlines, which is a joke. Frontier also uses a slightly different variant of the same Recaro seats. These also look similar to what Hawaiian has used for years interisland on their Boeing 717 fleet. With Hawaiian flights, we are only seated on them for about a half hour, which is hugely different than five or more hours to Hawaii.

For sure, the seats look extremely thin (photo above) and less padded, as is the way things are going nowadays to increase cabin space while reducing aircraft weight. We’ve found Recaro seats, whether in economy or a premium cabin, to be extremely uncomfortable. On the other hand, the current 737 MAX seats on Southwest are already quite uncomfortable for the long duration of Hawaii flights. So we don’t know if what the future holds will be worse or not.

Southwest seatback device holders.

Other features of the Southwest upgrade.

The plane seats will each be equipped with personal device holders, not unlike those found on Hawaiian’s Airbus A321neo. That’s a nice touch that has been missing, especially since Southwest also offers no seatback entertainment. The seats will also feature an improved, highly adjustable headrest for comfort and support.

Southwest USB (A and C)

Power outlets en route to all Southwest Airlines planes.

As has been known for some time, the company is adding USB (A and C) ports to all of their planes, including retrofitting those already in service. They don’t plan to add AC power, however. The issue with most USB outlets is that even though they can charge many current-generation laptops, they may not have enough power to do so. It also isn’t clear what power supply boxes may be needed seats to provide the new power offering.

Are you happy with the news of this Southwest overhaul?

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11 thoughts on “How Will Southwest Overhaul Impact Hawaii Flight Comfort?”

  1. While we always speak of 5 hours plus in traveling from many mainland points to Hawaii, in reality, we are in those seats for closer to 6 hours! Boarding, then FAs have to check if everyone is seated, , doors close and pushback. At busy airports like Los Angeles during busy times, you may sit on the ramp for some time before you even begin to taxi. I know that prior to Hawaiian moving to the Bradley Terminal at LAX, it took almost 20 minutes from the time we began pushback until takeoff power was put in. Feeling more like a sardine, if this is the trend.

  2. 52 years in business for SWA. Does anyone really believe they would spend untold millions of dollars for a less comfortable product? They are much more business savvy than that, and in spite of the seats “looking uncomfortable”, we can be certain they will provide a better flying experience. Also, I have flown with the new USB and USB C ports, and the USB C provides 60 watts of power which is typical for a laptop standard AC charger. It should be noted that you cannot charge a laptop on HA’s A321.

  3. Some information wasn’t included in this article. Per Southwest themselves:
    – There will be no increase in seating capacity. Remains at 175 with 32-33 inches of pitch. If anything, there will be more space between the seats. The seat width, legroom, and space either remains the same or increases.
    – Southwest actually added more padding to certain areas of the headrest, backrest, and bottom cushion in comparison to their current Meridian seats.
    – Alaska uses very similar RECARO seats on their 737s.
    – Delta uses RECARO CL3710 seats on their A350s—a similar variant to these seats—in the same context as Frontier uses SL3710 seats (Southwest will use BL3710). They’re all distant cousins of the same seat family.

  4. I got off a SW flight from Kauai two hours ago. It was not bad certainly nothing like Frontier which I used a fair bit for work trips 6 years ago. I doubt I will ever fly Frontier again in my life. My flight today was ok and at least as good as past Hawaii flights on AA or Delta.

    I guess that the changes will result in more rows and terrible seats, which means I will not be flying SW ever again. The more airlines cheapen and make the experience like spending the day in purgatory the less I fly. It won’t be long until all my vacations will be driving ones.

  5. It would be naive to think that they’re not gonna add at least one more row of six seats. They’ll “max” it to the exit limit. The retrofit is not gonna pay for itself.

    1. Agree completely with Mike G when it comes to SW! We’ve lived in south central Texas for 35 years and Never Ever fly SW, even though they are everywhere here with lots of frequency.
      SW lures you in with good customer service and fun flight attendants, but that is where it ends. Cabin comfort and cattle call at the airport gate is like flying a Greyhound Bus!
      We’ve been going to the islands since the mid 1960s every year multiple times and always fly HA, UA, or AA.
      Some older BOH readers may also remember Braniff and Pan American to HNL way back in the day.
      Aloha to all.

  6. The seats look like uncomfortable trash: thin, light and cheap. Unfortunately, this also is what most people are willing to pay for; real-world data confirms a cheap fare is far more important than a comfortable flight.

    More room equals less ticketed passengers, hence higher prices — and the vast majority of flyers simply will not pay for it.

    1. That’s SW for ya. I’d much rather spend money and be comfortable onboard real airlines like Hawaiian, Delta or American

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