Taking a look at the new Southwest seats, except not

Want to know what the new economy class seats for Southwest Airlines will look and feel like? I’m pretty sure a few million passengers are interested in learning all about them, like whether the advertised increased seat width is real or just a math game of narrower arm rests. What does the cushioning feel like and are there power plugs installed. All legitimate questions and all things I hoped to explore during the Aircraft Interiors Expo 2015. Alas, it was not to be.

B/E Aerospace, who designed and engineered the seats, unveiled the new product today at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Germany.

Mary Kirby of Runway Girl Network interviews B/E Aerospace CEO Werner Lieberherr during the “tour” we were given.

B/E Aerospace, the manufacturer of the seats spent 2.5 of the 3 days during the event not allowing media access to its booth. Late in the afternoon on the final day access was reluctantly granted and a group of six or so was welcomed by Werner Lieberherr, the company CEO. He brought us through the booth (faster than desired and we were told that recording the interviews was not permitted), showing several of the seating options the company has currently installed and a few new ones, too. We saw windows shades which can provide USB solar powered charging ports at a significantly lower weight than traditional in-seat systems, though also much less effective on evening flights than traditional systems.

We got to see the lighting systems (dancing LEDs like the ANA 787 rainbow mode) and galley inserts for Nespresso machines.

LED lights dancing on the ceiling and side walls
Feeling fancy? Nespresso is now available in an airline version.


We also saw the new Space lavatory (Delta & Alaska Airlines are the first customers; more carriers will be doing so soon). There really is slightly more width at the hips when seated in the lav though most other dimensions are tighter.

More hip space if seated in the lav, but it is much smaller inside. Quite the contrast.
Airlines save 7″ of space with the new lav design.

And then we were, in true P. T. Barnum style, asked to see the egress. Having not yet examined the new seats which were advertised as being unveiled at the show I pressed on that topic.

Mr. Lieberherr informed our group that the seats were not available on the booth; they “are still in development.” At this point a true cynic might begin to believe that the product is vapor ware. After all, it is not being shown anywhere publicly. And the CEO of the manufacturer, when asked directly about it, says it is not quite real.

But then there’s the part where multiple other vendors in the show saw and even sat in the seats. So we know they’re real. What we do not know is why B/E Aerospace is refusing to show them in public. What is the company trying to hide?

n.b. A special thanks to Hamburg Aviation for their efforts on behalf of the industry to gain the access which was achieved.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. I think that “space lav” pic is the same as United has installed on some 737’s, no?

  2. I don’t get B/E Aerospace’s behavior, with not letting the media see their seats. Second point, it seems to me as if questions about meeting delivery schedules were not even brought up, was that intentional, were things like that just shuffled under the carpet?

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