Southwest Airlines said today that it would redesign the interiors of most of its planes, changing the color scheme, carpets, and seats with newer models that will allow the airline to add a half dozen more to each flight.
In a press release, Southwest said that the new lighter-weight seats and fixed-wing head rests offer improved ergonomics so will be more comfortable without reducing personal space. Another bonus: increased under-seat room for carry-on luggage. The airline says it was able to create room for the extra seats by using lighter, thinner padding, reducing the recline distance of seats from three inches to two, and installing new streamlined netted seatback pockets.
Southwest says the redesign will begin appearing on its Boeing 700s in March and be completed sometime next year and will help it improve efficiency as the changes will allow it to carry more passengers and at the same time an estimated 635 fewer pounds per aircraft. It also pointed out that the interior design materials will be eco-friendly.
Southwest put the pricetag for this first-stage of the overhaul at $60 million, but Bloomberg News said the estimated reduction in weight and fuel use along with the addition of seats will lift revenue by at least $250 million a year.
Southwest is still evaluating its remaining planes for the changeover and it expects to gradually retrofit its AirTran Airways jets as it continues to integrate the new unit.
Below is a video of a plane being retrofitted.