When I first started writing about American’s 737 MAX and the miniature lavatory, the airline kept asking why don’t I give Southwest the same hard time?
Southwest has a similar lavatory in their new 737 MAXs. However,
- Southwest isn’t retrofitting their full fleet with it.
- The issue with American’s interior is the whole experience, the lavatory is just a part of it. American is removing seat back entertainment, putting in more uncomfortable seats, and squeezing those seats closer together.
- And Southwest really shouldn’t be what they compare themselves to. “Southwest is the same as we are” seems like a strange argument when American’s CEO Doug Parker calls Southwest “the cattle car.”
- Then the airline pushed back saying they had no choice but to accept small lavatories, that it’s all Boeing would offer, but even leaving aside the veracity of the claim no one is forcing American to replace larger lavatories with smaller ones through the fleet and Parker says if smaller lavatories had been available earlier American would have wanted them.
Well I finally flew on a Southwest 737 MAX. I fly Southwest often and have status with them yet haven’t found myself in a new lavaqtory on their planes. So on my most recent flight I got up to use the lavatory just to see it. It’s too cramped, of course.
But there is more space at the seats. American took the opportunity to squeeze in more seats. Southwest’s 737 MAX doesn’t have more seats than their existing 737-800s. The distance from seat back to seat back on American’s new domestic interiors is 30 inches, while Southwest is at 32 inches. Those two inches matter.
I flew Southwest home from DC. I flew American to DC. Here is that experience on American, thanks to irregular operations I wound up with the last seat on an Austin – Charlotte flight in the last row of coach.
Southwest and American are supposed to be offering different products. And no doubt American has done a lot to improve business class and treatment for ConciergeKey members.
But domestically where most American customers fly Southwest gives you more room, no change fees and doesn’t charge for checked bags. And employees seem to want to be at their jobs. Which one is the premium airline?
I really do think though that Southwest needs to distribute its product through traditional online channels so customers are aware of the premium option especially as online shopping improves to compare like-features along side price.