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Southwest's seats to get even smaller? Even possible?

Giving new meaning to the term "cattle car".

Southwest Airlines can soon cram more customers onboard with thinner seats

Southwest's new Recaro seats will debut next year on the carrier's new Boeing 737 Max 8 planes

By Ryan Erik King / Jalopnik, Quartz Media

Feb 7, 2024

Southwest Airlines unveiled a redesigned cabin featuring new Recaro seats, and while they have a clean modern look, they’re as thin as an ironing board. The seat manufacturer claims the shape of the backrest foam is “a callback to the automotive expertise of Recaro.” However, there’s an ongoing trend of introducing thinner seats to maximize cabin space and squeeze more paying passengers onboard. These new Southwest cabins are set to debut in early 2025 on the carrier’s new Boeing 737 Max 8 planes.

Coming in 2025: Our Updated Cabin Interior and Seats | Southwest Airlines

The Recaro BL3710 seats that will be fitted onto Southwest aircraft are designed to take up as little space as possible. The chairs, clad in artificial leather, feature a thin foam cushion in the front. As with most modern economy seating, the inflight entertainment system has been ripped out of the back and replaced with a “personal device holder.” The holder is just a higher tray to put a smartphone or tablet. Also, the three-abreast rows are essentially bench seating to maximize width, an increase from 17 inches up to 17.8 inches. Very little bit counts when you’re the one stuck in that chair for a couple of hours.

Legroom on passenger planes is typically measured using seat pitch, the distance from a point on one seat to the same point on the seat behind it. For economy class, 32 inches was the standard pitch for the country’s major carriers (Delta, American, United). Thinner seats mean more legroom — or extra cabin room to cram into an additional row. Several carriers have opted to offer “premium economy” offerings with additional legroom. Delta Air Lines has its Comfort+ section with extra legroom, a 34-inch seat pitch to be exact. Every inch matters.

The Federal Aviation Administration considered mandating seat sizes in 2022, but nothing came of it. Airlines are going to continue pushing for thinner and lighter seats to generate as much revenue per flight as possible.

This article originally appeared on Jalopnik.

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