"We love the 737. We wish it would be more fuel efficient," said chief executive Gary Kelly during its 20 January earnings call. "At some point we will have a different airplane if Boeing comes forth with a new aircraft."
Kelly says he would prefer a more fuel efficient airplane from Boeing whether it would be via an interim step such as a re-engine programme or an all-new aircraft. "Boeing has told us and I think what I've read recently at least, is that they are looking for a decision on that mid-year," he states.
Southwest is also acknowledging that it will likely reverse its long-standing policy of only operating a single fleet type in the coming years. "At some point, we will likely have another fleet type. We think we can manage multiple fleet types - not 10, but two or three."
In the short term Southwest's fleet will expand to include the McDonnell Douglas MD-95 (Boeing 717-200) once its acquisition of AirTran Airways closes.
In 2011, Southwest revised its delivery schedule to take three additional 737-700s this year for a total of 19, and 20 737-800s in 2012. The carrier also states it is evaluating substituting -800s in lieu of the 71 -700s scheduled for delivery from 2013 through 2016.
Southwest in December firmed plans to substitute 20 firm -700 orders for the -800 with deliveries beginning in 2012.
(Sandra Arnoult - Flight Global / Flight International News)