Southwest gives its 737 interiors a ‘green’ makeover

Southwest Airlines in October 2009 turned a B737-700 into a ‘beta-plane’ to test a series of sustainable interior materials, such as environmental-friendly leather and recycable carpet. This so-called ‘Green Plane’ has been operating in regular revenue service, so Southwest could evaluate normal wear and durability. Based on the in-flight test results and feedback from customers onboard the Green Plane, Southwest has just announced its new ‘Evolve’ interior, which will feature refurbished seats, more under-seat space, new carpets and a more stylish colour palette. Southwest says the materials used are “green” and lighter, reducing each aircraft’s weight by several hundred pounds per plane, thereby saving fuel and costs.

Seats, carpet
APEX reports that Southwest is retaining the B/E Aerospace-manufactured ‘Innovator II’ seat frames on its 737-700s, but will add fixed wing head rests, new, thinner, more durable foam fill, and synthetic ‘E-Leather’ seat covers – an eco-friendly, lightweight and scuff resistant alternative to traditional leather. The airline is also removing the under-seat floatation device – and instead adding smaller and lighter life vest pouches – to create weight savings of nearly six pounds per seat. A smart new feature are netted seat pockets, which have so-called ‘crumb catchers’ at the bottom that can be zippered open to allow the crumbs to come out. Furthermore, completely recyclable, carbon-neutral carpet from InterfaceFLOR will be laid in squares, rather than rolls, which eliminates the need for total carpet replacement.

The slimmer refurbished seats will also allow Southwest to reduce seat pitch from 32 to 31 inch and add an additional row on its 737-700s without sacrificing personal space. Southwest, however, emphasizes that “it 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.”

Sky Interior
Southwest will receive its first 737-800 ‘Sky Interior’ aircraft with the new Evolve interior in April 2012 and subsequently will start a retrofit of its fleet of 372 B737-700s. The operation is planned to be completed by the end of 2013 and represents an USD60 million investment. The airline, however, anticipates the new interior – coupled with the gain in seat capacity – will produce savings of about USD250 million annually.

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