Scoring a Southwest 737 MAX 8 exit row seat was far more eventful than I thought it would be. On one hand, the leg room is excellent, and I very much enjoyed spreading out like an absolute boss on my flight to Phoenix.
On the other hand, thanks to their open seating policy, I didn’t actually know that I’d be able to sit in the exit row exit row until I was on the plane (looking at said exit row).
I don’t even want to know what kind of permanent damage the palpitations – and acid reflex – I suffered in the moments leading up to the boarding process did to my innards. And should I be concerned that it hurts when I pee now?
San Diego, CA (SAN) – Phoenix, AZ (PHX)
Wednesday, January 17, 2024
Aircraft: 737 MAX 8
Duration: 48 minutes
Seat: 16A (Exit Row)
My full review of the Southwest Airlines 737 MAX 8 exit row seat from San Diego to Phoenix
If the intro to this review didn’t make it obvious, let me just come out and say it: yes, the exit row seats on the Southwest 737 MAX 8 are really good. It’s just that the novelty of them are greatly diminished when it’s not something you’re able to book / confirm ahead of time. The stress of trying to get an exit row seat almost cancels out of the comfort of the seat itself IMHO.
Arrival at the airport
Southwest Airlines operates out of Terminal 1 of the San Diego International Airport. T1 is the crappiest (and smallest) terminal at a SAN. For now anyway. Timing my arrival was absolutely crucial, as I didn’t particularly care to wait more than I absolutely had to before this flight to Phoenix. I ended up arriving an hour before scheduled departure. Good enough.
The boarding process for flight number 397 to Phoenix
Because I knew that I wanted an exit row seat, I opted for the Business Select experience when booking this ticket. Not only would that guarantee me one of the first 15 spots in the boarding process, it was nice to know that I would get a free drink once onboard as well (hopefully to celebrate the acquisition of an exit row seat).
A closer look at the glorious exit row seats
The fact that you’re reading this review is all the confirmation you’ll need to know that my acquisition of an exit row seat was successful. Was it worth the stress? Well…
It worth mentioning that Southwest 737 MAX 8 exit row seats are exactly the same as the standard seats – but with significantly more legroom.
The departure out of San Diego
Sitting in an exit row seat requires mature-adult levels of responsibility (something I didn’t even know that I had in me lol). Paying attention to the safety briefing is mandatory. Assisting the crew in the event of an evacuation is also mandatory. I was so nervous about screwing up that I barely even noticed our on-time push off of gate 9.
Seriously? Who needs in-flight entertainment with near unlimited amounts of legroom? It’s good to know it exists though. As a matter of fact, I consider this to be one of the best streaming in-flight entertainment systems of any US airline. Content is plentiful, streaming is fast (buffer-free), and the Wi-Fi is fairly decent as well. I didn’t even miss having a video screen built into the seat.
Snacks and drinks
Why are people always surprised when I tell them that drinks and snacks are free on Southwest Airlines? Maybe it’s because many assume that Southwest is a low-cost carrier who scrimps on everything. They’re not. And they don’t. On this flight to Phoenix today, they even came down the aisle a second time offering additional snacks to anyone who wanted them.
Any seat in the exit row on the MAX 8 will be good. 16A and F are the seats you want for longer flights though. As a matter fact, it’s one of the reasons why flying Southwest Airlines to Hawaii doesn’t have to be all that miserable of an experience. Heading out to the islands with near-unlimited leg room sounds like a pretty good time to me!
It’s important to note that these exit row seats are just as narrow as any other seat on the plane – but the added legroom certainly helps to make it feel less claustrophobic.
The descent (and arrival) into Phoenix
OK. You’ve stretched out for a bit. You’ve had some snacks, and an ice cold drink to wash it all down. Business Select passengers might even be feeling a slight buzz from their free alcoholic drink. It’s time to sit up straight, focus, and get ready to jump into action at a moments notice if anything goes awry during the landing. Sitting in an exit row requires a lot of responsibility!
Pros and cons of the Southwest Airlines 737 MAX 8 exit row experience
I’d be lying to you if I said that I can’t wait for my next Southwest exit row experience. Sure, it was very comfortable. I have no complaints about the seat itself. My problem with it is the preflight experience. I’m the kind of guy who likes structure and order. Not knowing where I’m going to be sitting until I step foot on the plane gives me anxiety. Basically, worrying about the unknown makes it a little more stressful than I like.
The exit row seats (especially 16A and F) are undoubtably the most spacious and comfortable seats on the entire plane.
There’s zero chance of having to sit next to a crying baby (or fidgeting toddler) in the exit row. It’s for abled-body adults only!
Southwest’s open seating policy means that there’s no way to guarantee sitting in an exit row seat beforehand. It’s basically a big fat gamble.
There’s a high chance that you’ll be the last to be served drinks and snacks. This is because the flight attendants start at both the very front and very back of the aircraft (and meet in the middle).
You’re good under pressure, right? You’re basically in charge as soon as the plane skids off the runway!