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Southwest Airlines Interior to Cut 635lb Per Plane

Southwest Airlines has unveiled a redesigned cabin that it says reduces aircraft weight while cutting waste.

The cabin’s seats achieve weight savings of nearly six pounds each, for a total of 635 pounds per aircraft, but are also more durable than their predecessors, Southwest says. These changes should result in over $10 million in annual cost savings, the airline says.

The seat covers are made with E-Leather, a leather fiber that is upgraded and combined with a “high-performance core.” Southwest will use its B/E Aerospace Innovator II seat frame on 372 of its existing fleet of -700 aircraft, excluding those belonging to subsidiary AirTran. This should save about $50 million, the company says.

The interior uses recycled, carbon-neutral carpet from InterfaceFLOR, and the use of carpet squares should eliminate the need for total replacement of carpet areas, as well as cutting labor and material costs.

The new life vest pouch saves one pound per seat, while creating more room for carry-on items. And the company says that by switching from plastic to a recyclable aluminum, it is increasing durability and reducing waste on rub strips, tray table latches, and seat arm trim pieces.

Southwest says the new design also offers greater revenue potential by increasing the number of seats from 137 to 143, without sacrificing customer comfort or space.

Southwest started testing sustainable onboard products in 2009 through its Green Plane program. The new E-leather seat cover, carpet, life vest pouch, seat foam fill, and passenger seat rub strips have all emerged from that program.

Southwest will begin retrofitting its current fleet of 372 Boeing -700s with the new interior in March, expecting completion in 2013, with a total estimated cost of $60 million.  As the company integrates AirTran Airways and converts it to the Southwest brand over the next several years, it expects that AirTran’s Boeing -700s and 717s will also be retrofitted with the new cabin interior. Other Southwest fleet types are still being evaluated for a possible retrofit.

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