Southwest Airlines is introducing a new cabin interior to enhance customer comfort, improve fleet efficiency, and give back to the environment.
Named ‘Evolve: The New Southwest Interior’, the Southwest Airlines cabin update makes use of durable and environmentally responsible products to reduce waste and create weight savings on board the aircraft, while (according to the airline) enhancing comfort for customers.
The cabin refresh features recyclable carpet, a brighter color-scheme, and a more durable, eco-friendly, and comfortable low-profile seat that weighs less than the current seat.
Southwest Airlines says the new interior design also provides the opportunity of greater revenue potential by increasing the number of seats on board 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 modernization 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,” said Bob Jordan, Southwest Airlines 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,” added Jordan. “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, Southwest set out to improve the in-flight customer experience while increasing the durability of onboard materials, but without adding costs.
In 2009, Southwest launched its “Green Plane” trial to test the market’s latest sustainable products on board an aircraft in an effort to forge a new path in onboard eco-friendly products.
Based on the in-flight test results and feedback from customers flying on 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, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Southwest, moves forward, Southwest anticipates that AirTran’s Boeing 737-700s and Boeing 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.
According to Southwest, ‘Evolve: The New Southwest Interior’ retrofit will enhance the customer experience with:
● Modern cabin design: The new design incorporates natural, earthy tones combined with Southwest’s Canyon blue and clean, aluminum accents for a more modern, fresh appeal. The redesign is inspired by Southwest’s past with a nod to the future, according to the airline;
● A lighter and more comfortable seat: The redesigned low-profile seat is more durable, made of eco-friendly products, is lighter, and more comfortable;
● Increased under-seat space: The new design allows for more under-seat room for carry-on luggage and approved pet carriers;
● Customer personal space: Reducing the seat recline from three inches to two inches preserves on-board personal space while still allowing for ample seat adjustment for customer comfort;
● Seatback pockets: The new netted seatback pockets are streamlined to provide more knee room.;
● Headrest: The fixed-wing headrest provides better neck and head alignment with side-to-side support for sleeping; and
● Improved seat ergonomics: The combination of the low-profile cushion and fixed wing headrest improves ergonomics by positioning customers “down and back” into the seat, allowing for better lumbar support, armrest alignment, and increased personal space.
Over the decades, Southwest has been at the forefront of such efficiencies as paperless tickets, quick aircraft turnarounds, and the installation of winglets on-board its aircraft. According to the airline, the refreshed interior design will chart a new course for sustainable cabin interiors.
The new cabin interior features a variety of sustainable products:
● Seats: The new seats are constructed using eco-friendly products that offer more durability of the current seat, as well as a weight savings of nearly 6lb per seat. A lighter-weight fill from Franklin Products in the back of the seat provides increased customer comfort. The improved durability of the redesigned seat coupled with fuel savings from 635lb less weight per aircraft is expected to result in more than $10 million in ongoing annual cost savings;
● Seat cover: The new seats are made using ‘E-Leather’, an eco-friendly, lightweight, and scuff-resistant alternative to traditional leather. E-Leather is made from natural leather fiber that is upgraded and combined with a high-performance core which uses eco-friendly technology. The seat cover is manufactured by Irvin Automotive of Pontiac, Michigan, and Southwest says the company produces high-quality covers quickly and at a much lower cost than the carrier’s current manufacturer;
● Seat frame: Southwest says it will preserve the interior foundation as part of the redesign by using the existing B/E Aerospace Innovator II seat frame on 372 of the carrier’s existing Boeing 737-700s (excluding AirTran’s 7737-700s). By using the existing seat frames, Southwest estimates it will avoid spending an additional $50 million to refresh the cabin;
● Carpet: The new interior carpet is produced by InterfaceFLOR and will be applied in carpet squares, thus eliminating the need for total replacement of individual areas and reducing labor and material costs. The carpet is manufactured in a closed-loop recycled process dedicated to being completely carbon-neutral;
● Life vest pouch: The new pouch containing the life vest is more environmentally friendly, offering a weight savings of 1lb per seat. The smaller pouch also creates more room under the seat for carry-on items;
● Wind screen: The new bulkhead product has a longer lifespan, thus reducing the labor costs and waste that result from more frequent replacements or repairs; and
● Durable recyclable aluminum: By switching from plastic to a recyclable aluminum, Southwest says it will increase durability and reduce waste on the rub strips, tray table latches, and seat arm trim pieces.