One of the most satisfying aspects of my job is to work alongside my colleagues to plan and execute exciting major companywide strategic initiatives. I’m pleased to report significant progress that we’ve made recently on one of these, which is a fleet modernization plan to ensure that we maintain a safe, efficient, and Customer-friendly fleet. Last month, we made a huge announcement regarding the evolution of our planes with the 737 MAX expected to join the Southwest fleet in 2017. Today, we have more big news regarding the interior of our Boeing 737-700s. Allow me to introduce you to EVOLVE: The New Southwest Interior, an eco-friendly, cost-efficient new look for our cabin with an emphasis on comfort and personal space.
We will begin retro-fitting our Boeing 737-700 aircraft with the new interior this March, and we expect to have that done by the end of next year (2013).
EVOLVE will maximize the space inside our planes, and grants us the opportunity to increase the number of seats on board from 137 to 143, without sacrificing the Customers' personal space. In fact, sleeker seats will provide additional space under each seat for carryon luggage and approved pet carriers. To be clear, 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.
Remember the Green Plane? The materials tested on the Green Plane are being incorporated into the Evolve interior. Each seat is lighter by nearly six pounds, which adds up to a savings of 635 pounds per aircraft (even with the extra row) and is expected to result in more than $10 million in ongoing annual cost savings. The new seats are made using E-Leather, an eco-friendly, lightweight, and scuff resistant alternative to traditional leather. E-Leather is made from natural leather fiber that is upgraded and combined with a high performance core utilizing eco-friendly technology. The seat cover is manufactured by Irvin Automotive of Pontiac, MI, and they produce high quality covers quickly and at a much lower cost than our current manufacturer.
The new design also makes the bottom cushion lighter and more comfortable. These seats are better for your back, and provide better lumbar support.
We're also installing a fixed wing headrest on each seat that will provide for a more relaxing experience, especially if you decide to take a snooze.
We've replaced the seatback pocket with a netted pocket that's not only more form-fitting to the seat which allows for more knee room, but also makes it easier to see what items have been stowed in it.
Additionally, we're rolling out some new carpet… well, quite the opposite actually. Completely recyclable, carbon-neutral carpet will be laid in squares, rather than rolls, which eliminates the need for total carpet replacement. The new carpet will reduce labor and material costs and is fully recyclable at the end of its life-cycle.
Under the seat, we're replacing our current life vest pouches with lighter, more environmentally-friendly pouches. This is also one of the main reasons you'll have more space under your seat: each pouch is smaller and about one pound lighter.
As you can see, the redesign is inspired by Southwest's past with a nod to its future (and our commitment to being a Green Company). Natural, earthy tones combined with our Canyon blue and clean, aluminum accents give our Red Bellies a more modern, fresh appeal.
So about those extra seats: we hope to start making those additional seats for sale on southwest.com here by the end of the first quarter, for travel in the second quarter. Of course, this isn't as easy as flipping a switch; we will gradually introduce those extra seats into the system as newly retro-fitted planes come online. Needless to say, we’re excited to EVOLVE our cabin experience!