Do you remember lounge seating on Southwest Airlines?
It was 2004. I was traveling from Baltimore to Los Angeles on Southwest Airlines as part of a high school trip. We were connecting in Phoenix and had a tight connection. As I boarded the flight to LA with two of my friends, we noticed that the backwards-facing seats in row one were still open. So we grabbed them.
This was a Southwest Airlines 737-200 and my first time experiencing so called “lounge seating” onboard an airplane. We took our seats and found ourselves staring at a middle aged couple just inches away in the forward-facing seats.
The woman was only about four feet tall and had a cane. The man was unshaven and wearing a t-shirt with a confederate battle flag on it. Here’s how he broke the ice:
“I just smoked me five cigarettes and drank six beers in the airport bar.”
Ummm, that’s nice.
This was before Arizona’s clean air ordinance, when smoking was still permitted in Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. The man clearly reeked of cigarettes and beer.
But his wife really took the cake. I was sitting directly across from her and she said:
“Honey, my leg hurts. Do you mind if I put my feet up?”
I wasn’t quite sure what she meant, but told her to go ahead.
She proceeded to place her foot on my seat…directly between my legs.
I don’t think she was a cougar, but that made for an interesting flight…
Both were afraid to fly and the guy was cursing about all sorts of things as we prepared for takeoff. He was in the middle, his wife the window, and another older lady in the forward-facing aisle seat who said nothing the entire flight.
It was an unforgettable flight, thankfully only about an hour.
New Lounge Seating Design
The Heinkel Group, a German engineering firm, entered a new seat design for the Crystal Cabin Award 2020 that is really just a blast from the past. Heinkel describes its new “Flex Lounge” seat on Facebook:
“Our concept, the Flex Lounge, gives the opportunity to book the first two seat rows and make it your own private little area. Your time together starts after take-off!
“The Flex Lounge allows families and groups of friends to have an affordable privacy space during flights. The backrest of the first seat row can easily be moved by the flight attendants to create a communal space for a group of four people.”
Unlike the Southwest Lounge seating, these seats would all be forward-facing for takeoff and landing and adjusted after takeoff to create the lounge. The UK Independent calls this the “most socially awkward airline seat ever.”
My experience on Southwest Airlines was my first and only experience with lounge seating in economy class on an airplane. After that, I’m not sure I’d ever want to see it again. But there’s a certain nostalgia every time I see a new proposal to bring back lounge seating. After all, who wouldn’t want to share your seat with someone else’s foot?
Would you be interested in lounge seating again on Southwest and other airlines?