Southwest Lays Plans for Larger 737s

 - December 15, 2010, 10:37 AM

Southwest Airlines expects to take delivery of its first Boeing 737-800 in March 2012, the company’s chairman, president and CEO, Gary Kelly, revealed during a Wings Club luncheon in New York City today. The airline plans to substitute order position on twenty 737-700s for slots on the same number of 737-800s. It remains in negotiations with Boeing over the precise terms, including configuration and equipment options.

Current plans call for delivery of all 20 of the 737-800s in full ETOPS configuration to allow Southwest to fly to Hawaii. Southwest also expects to opt for the Dreamliner-inspired Sky Interior, featuring a quieter cabin, more modern-looking sidewalls and window reveals, more overhead stowage space, increased headroom and LED reading and ceiling lighting. 

“The -800 represents many exciting opportunities for our employees and our customers,” said Kelly. “We are looking to the future and the -800 sets the stage to bring more destinations into the realm of possibilities for Southwest, to operate a more economical aircraft, and to offer better scheduling flexibility in high-demand, slot-controlled or gate-restricted markets.”

The unions representing Southwest’s pilots and flight attendants each recently ratified agreements to allow for the operation of the larger airplanes. The pilots approved a deal that maintains a single pay scale but also calls for a pay increase on September 1 of either 2 percent or a rate based on the airline’s profitability, whichever proves larger. It also extends the collective bargaining agreement’s amendable period by a year, to Aug. 31, 2012, and provides for a profitability-based pay raise on Sept. 1, 2012.

The flight attendants’ deal guarantees that their variable pay increase based on the company’s 2010 financial performance cannot fall below 2 percent. It also calls for company-paid training, the formation of a labor-management committee to address any ongoing work rule “issues” and a one-year contract extension.