Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Southwest Announces Interior Upgrade, Plans to Increase in 737-700 Seat Count

Southwest Announces Interior Upgrade, Plans to Increase in 737-700 Seat Count:

Earlier this morning Southwest Airlines revealed Evolve: The New Southwest Interior, a cabin upgrade that includes bringing new seats to the airline. Like many other carriers, Southwest has opted for lighter low-profile seats that should generate cost savings. The airline says the “improved durability of the redesigned seat coupled with fuel savings from 635 pounds less weight per aircraft is expected to result in more than $10 million in ongoing annual cost savings.”

The new seats bring some new features that should be nice for customers, including more space for bags underneath seats a fixed-wing headset that looks much more comfortable than Southwest’s current seat. The new seats also feature less recline. That change might not be popular with everyone, but as someone who is sick of having people recline and restrict my laptop usage I welcome this move! Here’s a handy diagram of the seat:

The upgrade also entails an increase in seat count from 137 to 143 seats. While the airline says this move “provides the unique opportunity of greater revenue potential,” the additional seats should also put some downward pressure on cost per available seat mile (CASM), in my opinion.

“[I]t was never our objective to add a row of seats, and the extra row isn’t the main reason for this redesign. Once we examined how much space would be saved, it was determined we could accommodate the increase, without sacrificing comfort,” said Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer Bob Jordan in a post on the airline’s blog.

Jordan added that “we hope to start making those additional seats for sale on southwest.com here by the end of the first quarter, for travel in the second quarter.”

Southwest says it will begin retrofitting its fleet of over 370 737-700 aircraft this March and will complete the modification next year. In addition, the airline said it “anticipates that AirTran’s Boeing -700s and 717s will also be retrofitted with the new cabin interior as those aircraft are converted into the Southwest brand over the next several years,” suggesting that the AirTran brand is here to stay for quite awhile.

The airline also noted that “Other Southwest fleet types are still being evaluated for a possible retrofit.”

Granted, this change was only announced earlier today but at first blush I really like this move. I’ll be flying Southwest for a trip this summer, so hopefully I’ll luck out and fly on one of the retrofitted -700s!

from Things in the Sky

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