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Southwest Airlines' new seats are wider with "streamlined" armrests

Southwest Airlines' new seats are wider with "streamlined" armrests
Southwest Airlines announced that future planes will have seats that are a bit wider and have a C-shaped frame to give passengers more shin space. (Southwest / AP)

The newest seats on Southwest Airline planes are expected to give passengers what they've been demanding: more breathing space.

The seats to be installed on Boeing 737-800 planes starting in 2016 will offer about half an inch of extra width on each seat, as well as a new "C-shaped" design to the bottom seat frame, replacing the old "L" shape, thus giving passengers a bit more room around the shins.

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But Southwest won't say how it was able to squeeze an extra half inch out of each seat without narrowing the aisle. The seat designer, Florida-based B/E Aerospace, isn't talking. Southwest confirms, however, that the armrest between the seats will be "streamlined."

"We see this as the future of Southwest Airline seats," said Southwest spokeswoman Thais Conway.

But the future won't be coming soon. Southwest won't be ripping out the old seats to replace them with the wider seats. Instead, the wider B/E Aerospace seats will be installed in the new 737-800 and 737-Max as they come on line to replace older Boeing models, stretching from 2016 to 2024.

To read more about travel, tourism and the airline industry, follow me on Twitter at @hugomartin.

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