Enhancing Southwest Airlines into a Greener Fleet

Southwest Airlines introduces new era of customer comfort and sustainability with evolution of the cabins interior design.

Southwest Airlines introduced a new sleek cabin experience to enhance Customer comfort, improve fleet efficiency, and give back to the environment. Dubbed Evolve: The New Spirit Experience, the cabin update utilizes 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 color-scheme, and a more durable, eco-friendly, and comfortable low-profile seat that weighs less. The new design also provides the unique opportunity of greater revenue potential by increasing the number of seats onboard from 137 to 143, without sacrificing Customer comfort and personal space and increasing under-seat room for carryon luggage.

Southwest’s cabin refresh has been four years in the making, beginning with a partnership between Southwest’s Maintenance & Engineering and Marketing Teams to improve the Customer Experience while increasing sustainability but not adding costs. In 2009, Southwest launched the “Green Plane” to test the market’s latest sustainable products onboard an aircraft.  Based on the inflight test results and feedback from Customers onboard the Green Plane, Southwest’s new Evolve interior features the e-Leather seat cover and all of the other products tested on the Green Plane including the carpet, life vest pouch, foam fill, and passenger seat rub strips.

“We are preparing now for our next 40 years of success with a fleet modernization plan that includes the new interior, the Boeing 737-800 which will come online beginning in March this year, and the 737 MAX, which will join the Southwest fleet in 2017,” said Bob Jordan, Executive Vice President & 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 revenue opportunities without adding unwanted fees.”

Southwest will begin retrofitting its current fleet of 372 -700s with Evolve: The New Spirit Experience in March 2012, anticipating completion in 2013.  As integration of AirTran moves forward, the 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. Other Southwest fleet types are still being evaluated for a possible retrofit.

The Evolution of the New Cabin Interior Improves Customer Experience and Preserves Personal Space
With a continued focus on Customer comfort, Evolve: The New Spirit Experience retrofit enhances the Customer Experience:
Modern Cabin Design: The new design incorporates natural, earthy tones combined with Southwest’s iconic 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. 
Lighter and More Comfortable Seat: The redesigned low-profile seat is more durable, made of eco-friendly products, is lighter, and more comfortable. Based on Customer feedback during our Green Plane test, people rated the low-profile seat more comfortable and a better overall experience than our current seat offering.
Increased Under-Seat Space: The new design allows for more under-seat room for carry-on luggage and approved pet carriers.
Customer Living Space: Reducing the recline from three inches to two inches preserves living space while allowing for seat adjustment to improve Customer comfort.
Seatback pockets: The new netted seatback pockets are streamlined to provide more shin clearance.
Headrest: The fixed-wing headrest provides better neck and head alignment with side-to-side support for sleeping.
Improved 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 living space.

Southwest Introduces New Era of Cabin Sustainability
Over the decades, Southwest has been at the forefront of such efficiencies as paperless tickets, quick aircraft turnarounds, installation of winglets, and, more recently, the installation of fleet-wide advanced avionics. For more than 40 years, Southwest has been a Maverick in the airline industry, and the refreshed design is charting a new course for sustainable cabin interiors. The new cabin interior features these sustainable products:
Seats: The new seats are constructed using eco-friendly products that offer more than twice the durability than the current seat. A lighter weight fill from Franklin Products in the back of the seat provides increased customer comfort, as well as a weight savings of nearly two pounds per seat. The improved durability of the redesigned seat coupled with fuel savings from less weight is expected to result in more than $10 million in ongoing annual cost savings.
Seat Cover: The new seats are made using e-Leather, manufactured by Irvin Automotive of Pontiac, MI, an eco-friendly, lightweight, and scuff resistant alternative to traditional leather. e-Leather is made from 83 percent natural leather that is upgraded utilizing eco-friendly technology.
Seat Frame: In our mission to improve the Customer Experience yet increase sustainability and contain costs, we will preserve the interior foundation as part of the redesign by using the existing seat frame on 372 of our existing -700 fleet (excluding AirTran’s -700s). This will equate to a savings in excess of $50 million in the anticipated cost of refreshing 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 recyclable and the manufacturing process is 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 one pound 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.
Durable Recyclable aluminum: By switching from plastic to a recyclable aluminum, we are increasing durability and reducing waste on the rub strips, tray table latches, and seat arm trim pieces.

Evolve: The New Spirit Experience is a win for each aspect of the triple bottomline: Performance, for increased durability, improved fuel burn, and additional revenue opportunity; People, with a new interior that emphasizes comfort and personal space; and Planet, for featuring sustainable, recyclable materials.

Southwest Airlines continues to differentiate itself from other low-fare carriers—offering a reliable product with exemplary Customer Service. Southwest Airlines is the nation’s largest carrier in terms of originating domestic passengers boarded and has recently acquired AirTran Airways, now a wholly owned subsidiary of Southwest Airlines Co. Southwest serves 72 cities in 37 states and is one of the most honored airlines in the world known for its commitment to the triple bottom line of Performance, People, and Planet. To read more about how Southwest is doing its part to be a good citizen, visit southwest.com/citizenship to read the Southwest Airlines One Report™ . Based in Dallas, Southwest currently operates more than 3,000 flights a day and has more than 35,000 Employees systemwide.

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