This effort is taking place as the carrier is undergoing the most significant fleet modernization effort of its history. On December 13th 2011, Southwest Airlines finalized the largest order of airplane by value and airplane count in Boeing history. The $19 Billion dollar deal (at list price) for 58 Boeing 737NG (-800 variant) and 150 Boeing 737MAX affirmed Southwest as the launch customer for the highly fuel efficient MAX variant. With the 737-800 due to be delivered starting this year, the 2013 completion target date for the Evolve Cabin will give the carrier enough momentum before the introduction the 737MAX begins sometimes in 2017.
The new Evolve concept brings eco-friendly principles aboard the aircraft via introduction of more durable materials that are also easier to sustain, recycle or dispose of. But as well it appears that the new materials offer advantages in efficiency, cost and additional business opportunities.
The new Evolve cabin most visible achievement is to allow the Southwest 737-700 to accommodate 143 passengers instead of 137 previously. Significant gains in weight savings were made possible by using new fibers on the aircraft leather seats. The new fiber showcases the more durable and very light weight E-Leather fabrics that will cover the new seats. The weight economy is even more appreciable since the current aluminum seat frames have been retained in order to contain cost escalation. Southwest reveals that keeping the current seats frame made possible saving an additional $50 million on the upgrade work. With improved Ergonomics, the new Evolve design is also making additional under-seat space available for passenger comfort and/or carry-on luggage. The carrier credits the resulting reduction in seat recline from three inches to two inches for not protruding excessively anymore into the following row’s passengers private space.
However, the entire scope of measures permitting such far-reaching improvements encompasses employing smaller and lighter life-vest pouch, re-design of seats back pocket, lower-profile seats with re-designed headrest and lumbar support.
In addition to visual amenities such as lighter cabin colors, recyclable and more resistant carpet, new wind screens, and pervading use of aluminum, Southwest claims it has achieved nearly 6 pounds in seat weight savings and 635 pounds overall per aircraft quantifiable to nearly $10 million saved per annum. In all the Evolve Cabin represents favorable business initiative for the 737-700 fleet which will become even more economical to exploit. Awaiting the 737MAX family and the promise of double digit reduction in fuel burn and CO2 emission on the prowess of the CFM LEAPX engine platform alone, Southwest will still extract remarkable operating economics and customer appeal from its 737-700 fleet.