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Originally published Tuesday, January 24, 2012 at 10:57 AM

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Small seats for Southwest Airlines

Southwest claims you'll hardly notice, but new seats will be both lighter and thinner.

Tacoma News Tribune

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You'll have more company on some full Southwest Airlines flights beginning this summer.

That's when the Dallas-based low-cost airline begins a $60 million overhaul of the interiors of its Boeing 737-700 aircraft. The upgrade process will mean installing new carpet and new seats. In the process, Southwest's 737-700s will gain six seats each, raising capacity from the present 137 to 143.

But Southwest claims you'll hardly notice if you're a passenger. The new seats are both lighter — by about 6 pounds each — and thinner, said the airline. And, says Southwest, they're more comfortable and have more room underneath to hold luggage or pet carriers.

The new seats will have a more limited reclining capability, from 3 inches to 2. That's an advantage if you don't like the seatback in front of you invading your space, but not an advantage if you like a greater recline.

The magazine pockets in the seats will change from leather to net, cutting weight and bulk. The weight savings alone, some 700 pounds even with the addition of the six additional seats, is expected to save Southwest about $10 million annually in fuel costs. The additional seat capacity is like adding 16 additional jets to Southwest's all-Boeing fleet.

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