Southwest adds comfort with new cabin design

Southwest Airlines has announced the introduction of The New Southwest Interior, a cabin update utilising durable and environmentally responsible products to reduce waste and create weight savings onboard the aircraft, while enhancing comfort for customers.

Inspired by Southwest’s past with a nod to the airline’s future, the cabin refresh features recyclable carpet, a brighter colour scheme, and a more durable, eco-friendly, and comfortable low-profile seat that weighs less than the current seat. The new interior design also gives the airline an opportunity for greater revenue by increasing the number of seats onboard the 737-700 from 137 to 143, without sacrificing customer comfort and personal space but, at the same time, increasing under-seat room for carry-on luggage.

"We are preparing now for our next 40 years with a fleet modernisation plan that includes the new interior, the Boeing 737-800 which is scheduled to come online beginning in March this year, and the 737 MAX, which is expected to join the Southwest fleet in 2017," explained Bob Jordan, executive vice-president and chief commercial officer. "The evolutionary changes we’re making with the new interior uphold our low-cost roots and historic focus on customer service. The cabin upgrade also allows us to create significant revenue opportunities without adding unwanted fees."

Beginning with a partnership between Southwest’s maintenance and engineering and marketing teams, the company set out to improve the inflight customer experience while increasing the durability of onboard materials, but without adding costs. In 2009, Southwest launched the "Green Plane" programme to test the market’s latest sustainable products on an aircraft to examine onboard eco-friendly products. Based on the test results and feedback from customers onboard the Green Plane, Southwest’s new Evolve interior features the e-leather seat cover and many of the other products tested on the Green Plane including the carpet, life vest pouch, foam fill, and passenger seat rub strips.

Southwest will begin retrofitting its current fleet of 372 Boeing 737-700s with the Evolve interior in March 2012, anticipating completion in 2013, for a total estimated cost of approximately $60 million. As integration of AirTran Airways moves forward, Southwest anticipates that AirTran’s Boeing 737-700s 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. Other Southwest fleet types are still being evaluated for a possible retrofit.

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