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Southwest revamping airliner interiors, adding seats

Post by John Gillie / The News Tribune on Jan. 18, 2012 at 3:55 pm with No Comments »
January 18, 2012 3:55 pm

You’ll have more company on some full Southwest Airlines flight beginning this summer.

That’s when the Dallas-based low-cost airline begins a $60 million overhaul of the interiors of its Boeing 737-700 aircraft. The upgrade process will mean installing new carpet and new seats. In the process, Southwest’s 737-700s will gain six seats each, raising capacity from the present 137 to 143.

But Southwest claims you’ll hardly notice if you’re a passenger. The new seats are both lighter — by about six pounds each – and thinner, said the airline. And, says Southwest, they’re more comfortable and have more room underneath to hold luggage or pet carriers.

To make that claim, the new seats will have a more limited reclining capability, from three inches to two. That’s an advantage if you don’t like the seatback in front of you invading your space, but not an advantage if you like a greater recline.

The magazine pockets in the seats will change from leather to net, cutting weight and bulk.

The weight savings alone, some 700 pounds even with the addition of the six additional seats, is expected to save Southwest about $10 million annually in fuel costs. The additional seat capacity is like adding 16 additional jets to Southwest’s all-Boeing fleet. Those extra seats could yield $250 million annually in additional income, said Southwest.

That will help the airline compensate for its policy of not charging for checked bags. Checked bag fees are big money generators for most airlines.

The transition to the new interiors is expected to be completed in the 737-700s by the end of next year. Southwest’s new 737-800s and 737 Max jets now on order will include the newer seats and additional capacity.

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