ConsumerWatch: Makeover On Southwest Planes Concerns Some Passengers

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Southwest Jets lined up at an airport terminal (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Southwest Jets lined up at an airport terminal (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) — Southwest Airlines has unveiled changes coming to much of their aircraft, concerning some frequent fliers.

Some passengers said they are frustrated about the makeover plans, which include the installation of six more seats and an inch less of seat pitch.

“Seat pitch” is the distance between a point on your seat to the same point on the seat either in front or behind you. The recline of your seat depends on how much seat pitch is provided.

According to travel site SeatGuru.com, some of Southwest’s competitors beat it out in both pitch and recline. Virgin America provides passengers with a 32 inch pitch with a 2-5 inch recline. JetBlue has a 34 inch pitch with a 4 inch recline. Southwest clocks in with a pitch of 31 inches and 2 inches of recline.

While some said Southwest is sacrificing comfort for economy, the airline insists that flyers won’t miss one inch of reclining space.

The new design, Southwest said, will provide more personal space and a new seating angle that makes the passengers not “feel the need to recline.” The airline added that the newly designed seats will have “more shin and leg clearance,” lumbar support, and more under-seat space for carry-on baggage.

Along with the new seats, the new design will come with recyclable carpet, tray tables, and armrests. 600 pounds will be shaved off the plane’s weight with the new design, making it a greener aircraft, according to the airline.

Southwest’s new look will be rolling out in mid-March on the airline’s 737-700 jets, more than 400 planes in total. Long haul planes will still keep the current seat pitch of 32 inches.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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