I always get excited when I board a Southwest 737-800 plane. It is one of its newer planes, has mood lighting and the leg space and over head bin space is much better than that on the –700 which makes up the bulk of their equipment. The 800 manages to do so even though it has a capacity of 175 passengers compared to 143 on the 700. One irritating reason is Southwest quietly snuck in another row on the 700s a few years ago to the chagrin of 6 footers like me.
So, the 800 smells new and has more passenger amenities. What’s not to like? Ask the crew. To service more passengers on a stretched plane, the 800 has 4 crew members instead of 3. 3 worked in the back galley, I in the front. And Southwest introduced drink carts to allow them to service the extra load. Led to lots of crew complaints.
So, I was pleased to fly the latest configuration of the 800 yesterday (for a video of a walkthrough of the cabin, see this from Cranky Flier). The plane now has 2 galley stations in the front and two in the back, and has eliminated the carts. The back galley has two coffee makers and other changes which allow each of the 4 flight attendants to have their own work space and section of the plane to service.
Back to more passenger amenities. The plane has more space in the front galley for emergency equipment so has freed up even more bin space. The seats, part of the new what they call Heart interior, now have adjustable headrests. There are two seat back pockets now – one on top for magazines and such , one for small personal stuff. The tracks under the seats allowed for more stowage space ( at least on the aisle I was on) . The seat cushion now does not sit on a stiff metal frame but on a springy hammock so felt better. Aesthetically, I love the blue and white seats – much more professional looking.
Two nits – the armrests and the 3 restrooms are tiny. But balance that against fact that families actually don’t mind the former and love the fact that each restroom now has a changing table.
Overall, crew and passengers should both be happier. In my small sample from yesterday I would certainly say so. But the plane had people going to cruises and the beach in Tampa and onwards to San Juan. If they were headed to a ice bound city, may be the mood would have been less pleasant?