Home Airlines How To Pick The Best Seat On A Southwest Flight

How To Pick The Best Seat On A Southwest Flight

by joeheg

It’s one thing to know the tricks on how to be the first one to get on a Southwest flight (Hint, it’s not Early Bird) but once onboard you also need to know what’s the best seat to pick on a Southwest flight?  Once you know your preferences, you can make a mental list and scope out the seats as soon as you enter the plane. Knowing which seats you’re taking prevents a mid-aisle game of “How’s this row?” Trust me, you don’t want that type of pressure in your life. (Right, Sharon?) (*cough* Right Joe. And if you would work on your decision-making skills, it would make picking the “best” seats a whole lot easier, now wouldn’t it? *cough*) (Note from Sharon: We really do love each other, I promise!)

So what are the choices for the “best” seats on a Southwest plane and how do they compare?

Southwest only flies three planes – the 737-700, 737-800 and the 737 MAX 8. The 800 variants have about 30 more seats than the 700, but if you’re looking for a seat in the front of the plane (and if you’re getting on first I’d imagine that’s where you’re looking), here are your choices:

Bulkhead

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When boarding first, you may have the option of grabbing the front row bulkhead seats. There are some pros and cons to sitting in Row 1 (or row 2, depending on the plane)

Pros

  1. Additional Legroom with no seat in front of you
  2. No one will recline into your seat during the flight
  3. The first one off the plane

Cons

  1. No tray tables for seats on the 737-700. Tray table in the armrest of 737-800s is smaller than the ones that fold down from the seat in front of you.
  2. Seats are narrower because of tray tables in the armrest.
  3. All bags must be stowed in the overhead during takeoff and landing
  4. Carry-on bags may not fit in the overhead bins because the bins are smaller at the front of the plane. You’ll have to store your bag several rows behind your seat.
  5. The first overhead bin may be full of emergency equipment and unusable.

The Infinite Legroom Seat

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Seat 12A on the 737-700 and seats 16A & 16F on the 737-800 and 737 MAX 8 are exit row seats with no seat in front of them. In reality, the exit is in row 15 but I’m guessing the window seat in that aisle would impede the door’s opening, if necessary.

Pros

  1. Infinite legroom
  2. No one in seat in front of you to recline into you during flight

Cons

  1. The tray table in the armrest is smaller than the ones that fold down from the seat in front of you.
  2. Seats are narrower because of the tray table in the armrest.
  3. A carry-on bag is far away (but this isn’t such a big deal, really)
  4. This seat can get a bit colder due to the nearby emergency exit.

Exit Row

Not all exit row seats are created equal and nowhere is that more apparent than Southwest’s planes. Some of the seats will provide extra legroom while others will give a narrower seat with no other benefits.

As you can see on SeatGuru, for the two planes the only a few seats are solid green (good) and the rest of the exit rows are yellow (Be aware)

Pros

  1. Additional legroom
  2. In some rows, the row in front can not recline

Cons

  1. Seats in these rows may have less padding
  2. Tray tables are in the seat in front of you, which may be far away for shorter passengers.
  3. It can get very cold by the exits while in-flight

Any Other Seat

Maybe you’re one of the passengers who just wanted a seat that wasn’t in the middle and is towards the front of the plane.

Pros

  1. Most seats on Southwest planes are the same.
  2. You can try to get an empty seat in your row if the flight is not full

Cons

  1. There are still some bad seats on Southwest. Be careful when choosing or you may end up in a row that doesn’t recline or one without a window.

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Final Thoughts

What’s the best seat on a Southwest flight? I guess that depends on what’s most important for you. If you want to have legroom and be in the front but don’t mind your carry-on being behind you and possibly not having a tray table for your flight, then you might prefer the bulkhead. Others might want the exit row for the extra legroom but otherwise normal seats.

If it’s available, I’ll take the infinite legroom seat. Since Sharon doesn’t need any extra legroom, this row works fine for us. We’ve even managed to keep the middle seat open a couple of times.

Which seat you want depends on what you value the most. Now that you know what’s available, you can make an informed decision.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

4 comments

Sharon July 22, 2019 - 6:24 pm

The problem that still exists is people are trying to save seats for their companions and you become the bad guy attempting to get a good seat .
FA ‘s need to be proactive in this and stop people from putting objects in seats that are not taken.

Reply
Kenneth Byrd October 6, 2019 - 1:47 am

Can’t decide between Seat 12A and 11B

Reply
derek May 18, 2021 - 3:56 pm

The seatmate is also important. Too obese or smelly is not desirable. A well behaved kid of 11 years old is nice. Doesn’t fuss. Smaller body.

Reply
DaninMCI May 19, 2021 - 6:33 am

The downside of the front row bulkhead is you have a 100% chance of those seats being full in the middle. Generally if the plane isn’t full you are better off toward the middle of the plane. Most people get on the plane and want to be in the front and will even pick middle seats over working toward the back of the plane. The other passengers that don’t want middle seat move back hoping to find a row that has a non-middle seat open. They end up in the very back only to find that all the windows and aisle seats are full so they try to swim upstream a bit and end up toward the back, meanwhile the front middles fill in first leaving the middle of the plane (except the exit row of course) with the best chance of leaving some middle seats open. The strategy on a full plane is simple. Once you are seated on the window or aisle and the middle is empty get with your row mate and start profiling passengers. When you find a small person (generally a 4 foot cheerleader type) offer them a seat. Entice them with candy, liquor or whatever you can. The old school strategy on a non-full flight is to bring a newspaper onboard and open it up covering the middle seat as much as possible so the poor slob that needs that seat is forced to interrupt your reading to ask for the seat and it also seems like that row is more full due to your reading habit. I’ve never tried it but you could alternatively bring a penthouse magazine with you and just be reading that in plain view which should deter the average person but this might open you up to some weirdo that “wants” to sit by you. The worst is the seat savers. Generally it’s some old couple that plays the system. One of them has status or has bought up to the A group while their spouse is like C-56. The first person gets on the plane in the first few people and saves the window and aisle on the exit or other good row and the FA’s let them. The worst part is even you are forced to sit in the middle seat between them they won’t swap seats with you. You’ll recognize the old couple seat savers when they are in the airport as they are the ones telling everyone how they only fly Southwest because they are always the cheapest and the best.

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