We’re Getting Bigger, Seats Are Getting Smaller

By | January 21, 2012

Southwest EVOLVE InteriorEvery time we read or write a story about a customer of size, there are a lot of comments claiming that the onus is on the customer for being of size. We’re not going to go there. If it is a fact we have an obesity epidemic in this country, it is outside of the scope of our blog. The truth of the matter is, if the average customer is larger, then the airlines should accommodate the average customer.

Southwest is retrofitting its planes, replacing the seat cushioning with thinner and lighter ones. This is something a lot of airlines have done, and many find the new material more comfortable. Southwest could have given the extra space to their passengers, but instead they are adding an extra row, bringing the total to 143. Southwest refers to this as their EVOLVE project, because it is not only a new interior, it is a lighter, more durable, and eco-friendly design.

Southwest insists that they determined they could add the seats without reducing customer comfort, and that it wasn’t the objective of their redesign…apparently just a pleasant side effect. The pitch is actually going from 32 to 31 inches, but they insist this is mitigated by an adjustment that seats you down and back.

And they may be right. As the Wall Street Journal pointed out, many people like the new seats, and the pitch measurement may not be accurate to reflect this. But in the end, Southwest Airlines has always tried to distinguish themselves from other carriers. They knew they would get criticism for this decision, and have tried to gloss it over in the midst of their press release.

The next evolution in seat design…less. But, to be fair, try it out first. Maybe less is more, as Southwest claims.