In this trip report, our writer Harrison F compares Southwest’s products on their Boeing 737-700s and Boeing 737-800s.
Southwest Flight 1758: San Francisco International Airport to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
Boeing 737-800SSW N8694E L/N 6013 0.7 Years
Board Time: 07:10 (act: 07:12)
Departure Time: 07:40 (act: 07:39)
Even though I’m not a fan of early morning flights, the LUV on Southwest makes up for it. Having TSA PRE allowed for streamline security and getting to the gate early to get some website work done. As boarding approached with the sun rising, the Phoenix based crew arrived and prepared the new 737 for a day of flying. Surprisingly a ramp agent operated the boarding process instead of the normal manager that was usual in the past. When we began boarding, the agent called for the classic cattle call to line up. My position, A53, allowed me to pick a good seat, 25A. A window of course. Surprisingly, the early morning flight was almost full.
Southwest’s 737-800s have 175 seats in an all economy seating configuration, offering 32-33’’ pitch. My 737 still felt fresh out of the factory. We pushed back from the gate one minute early, taxied to runway 1L, and departed on the SSTIK3 departure.
Upon reaching our cruise altitude of 35,000 feet, the crew started the beverage service. I had coffee, which was rather good and on par with United’s coffee, the best in the business. When reaching the California desert, the crew passed out honey roasted peanuts, always a tasty treat on Southwest.
Upon reaching the Arizona-California border, we started our decent into Phoenix. Landing east allowed for a nice view of downtown Phoenix and Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Being a baseball fan, this sight really made my eyes light up. After touching down on runway 08, the Flight Attendant read off connecting flights that fellow passengers were taking, ranging from Newark-Liberty to Little Rock and other Midwest destinations. After doing so she then cracked a few jokes about the recent United incident which caused quite the stir. Upon reaching the gate, the Flight Attendant said “Grab your stuff and come with me” which everyone had a good laugh from.
The flight was very enjoyable and I recommend flying Southwest over the competition to Phoenix anyday. Having the rather generous legroom of 33’’ made for a very comfortable flight. Even though I’m a frequent Virgin America flyer, I will always consider taking Southwest on leisure routes.
Southwest Flight 2580: Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport to San Francisco International Airport
Boeing 737-700 N7840A L/N 715 16.4 Years
Board Time: 12:55 (act: 13:23)
Departure: 13:30 (act 13:57)
Phoenix Sky Harbor by far has the quickest TSA security that I had ever seen. Compared to private security, it was on par, if not better. After passing security, my gate was just a short walk away. After checking to see if my flight was on time, I walked down the concourse to the large glass window to see what action was happening. As usual it consisted of many American Airbus aircraft and Southwest 737s.
As boarding time arrived, the gate agent announced that the flight was overbooked by 1 passenger and it appeared they were trying to reposition a United pilot to SFO. The original offer was a flight accommodation through LAX, getting to SFO later that day and a $100 flight voucher. After no one offered the voucher was bumped to $300 then $500. After joking around, I actually took into account that I’d do it for a flight through Burbank, but just decided to fly back home to San Francisco.
Upon boarding, it was clear to see the plane’s age as I looked for a window seat. As the plane was 16.4 years old, you could see the age in the cabin minus the seats, which were relatively new. After pushback and taxi out, we pulled out of the line of departures to the parallel taxiway due to a computer issue. After a wait of a few minutes, we taxied back out and departed off of runway 25R.
Just like last flight, upon reaching our cruise altitude of 34,000 feet, the beverage service began. This time I had a Dr. Pepper, which you don’t really find on other airlines. More to LUV, am I right? Over the Victorville “Boneyard,” the flight attendants passed out honey roasted peanuts and pretzels. The flight, being uneventful, allowed me to catch up on some editing from spotting at PHX. After landing our pilot thought about vacating at high speed Juliet, but since it was closed, you could feel the sporty 737 veer hard. Upon reaching the ramp, our gate was blocked by a company 737. The wait allowed for a nice view of the Air France A380 starting up. This time no United jokes were said when reaching the gate, which was probably a good idea in order to avoid unnecessary controversy.
Southwest’s service is always consistent service-wise, even though I have yet to take a flight over 2 hours on them. Southwest’s 737-700 fleet is really beginning to show its age, even though they are wifi equipped with streaming. The MAX7 can’t come any faster! Arriving into SFO Interim Concourse B is always enjoyable, since the terminal will be going down in a few years.
Differences between the 737-700 and 737-800 on Southwest:
The biggest difference between these two great aircraft is their ages. A large majority, or what it seems, of the west coast 737-700s are second, or even third hand aircraft. A lot of these planes are really showing their age with the classic yellow-orange lighting, torn up overhead bins, stuffy air conditioning and scratched up windows. Southwest’s 737-700s have 143 seats with 31’’ pitch which is on par with most legacy carriers’ domestic fleets. I find 31’’ pitch to be a little cramped at 5’10, 180 pounds and a large camera bag under the seat. On the 737-800’s, it’s a much different picture. The new 737-800s appear to be much quieter than the 737-700s and are much more comfortable. The 737-800s have 175 seats with 32-33’’ pitch, and my seat had 33’’ which was very comfortable with the large camera bag under the seat. The 32-33’’ pitch is very generous and is on par with the legroom of Virgin America and just behind jetBlue. The SWA 737-800s have the new “Boeing Sky Interior”, which definitely makes the atmosphere feel fresh and welcoming. The only other airline I’ve flown that has BSI equipped is United, and on my two most recent flights they turned it off shortly after departure.
All in All, Southwest is a very good domestic airline and is relatively cheap on both leisure and business routes. Most of the time you’ll catch the 737-700s, and it appears the 737-800’s operate high density routes at high peak times.