Southwest CEO sees 60% of fleet becoming the 737-7

March 1, 2018, © Leeham Co.: Southwest Airlines needs about 100 more Boeing 737-8s before turning its

Gary Kelly, CEO of Southwest Airlines. Photo via Google images.

attention to the 737-7, CEO Gary Kelly told LNC in a press scrum at the 2018 Aviation Summit today, sponsored by the US Chamber of Commerce.

The current fleet of 737-700s won’t see retirements until about 2022, at which time the need for the 7 MAX arises.

737-7 deferral

Earlier this year, Southwest deferred delivery of 23 of 30 7 MAXs from the next two years until 2023-24.

Kelly, responding to a question from LNC, said he expects that perhaps 60% of the fleet will eventually be the MAX 7. Southwest currently has more than 500 737-700s.

The 7 MAX, which has an advertised range of more than 3,800nm, could become a trans-Atlantic airplane in the distant future.

Over a generation, Southwest could add 500 airplanes to its current fleet of 750. Until a replacement for the 737 is the only choice, Kelly said, though he conceded the carrier will look at the prospective Boeing NMA/797. He also said Southwest looks at all aircraft, including the Bombardier CSeries—but he has no interest in anything but the 737 “as long as I am CEO.”

Kelly is 63, but there is no mandatory retirement age at Southwest and he plans to be around for some time to come.


Kelly said Southwest has the potential to add 50 cities over the next several years, though there won’t be “aggressive” expansion over the next three or four years. Hawaii is a high priority, and ETOPS certification for the 737 fleet is progressing.

Alaska is also a target for expansion.

The majority of the new cities will be in the Caribbean and Latin America, he said.

  • Kelly has no interest in the Boeing 737-9 and might in the 737-10, if there are certain routes that need more capacity and it’s not possible to add more flights.

78 Comments on “Southwest CEO sees 60% of fleet becoming the 737-7

  1. I’ve always thought that people were reading too much into the -800/MAX 8 orders as a sign that Southwest had moved on from the -700/MAX 7. It’s just a matter of Southwest starting from zero on the -800s not that many years ago. Still, I wouldn’t be surprised if the ultimate fleet mix is closer to 50-50.

    The problem with the larger 737s for Southwest is that it operates from so many airports with short runways. It can’t use anything bigger than an -800/MAX 8 at MDW, its biggest base. Orange County is also a definite no-go for the bigger planes. I could imagine problems in Burbank, Houston, LGA, DCA, etc. as well (among others).

    But I could see a MAX 10 subfleet making sense for flights to Hawaii, particularly from LAX, and perhaps a few other high-density markets.

    • I also tend to think that as long as SWA aims for consistent 25 to sub-40 minute turns anything larger than a 738/max8 seems tough in their utilization model.

      I also think their fleet preference will cause them to shy away from a small max10 subfleet.

      • Hello RaflW,

        RE: “I also tend to think that as long as SWA aims for consistent 25 to sub-40 minute turns anything larger than a 738/max8 seems tough in their utilization model.”

        I have not flown Southwest much in the last 10 years. Perhaps things have changed since Southwest started flying more long routes; however, back in the late 1980’s when Southwest was the only airline my parents and I could afford for my trips home to San Francisco from my graduate school studies in Houston, Southwest’s turn time goal was 10 minutes. A gate team that consistently took so incredibly long as 25 minutes to turn a 737 would have been looking for new employment.

        In my graduate school days in the 80’s Southwest was cheapest SF to Houston , but did not have non-stop flights on this route. There would usually be two to three stops en-route to Houston. Something like SF to El Paso to Austin to Houston. ISouthwest offered few if any connecting flights from SF to Houston back then, they instead typically had you stay on one plane until you got to your destination. Each stop along the way was like a city bus stop. Open the doors, get off if this your stop, load up the people getting on at that stop, and head for the runway. The flight attendants would announce at each stop that you were free to move to a seat you liked better, but that if you got off the plane you wouldn’t be getting back on. See the excerpts below from a CNBC article about 10 minute turn times at Southwest. See the link after the excerpts for the full article. According to this 2011 article, Southwest’s average turn time in 2011 has indeed increased to (gasp!) 25 minutes.

        “In 1972, fledgling Southwest was facing turbulent times. After years of legal battles to gain the right to fly, a lack of funds threatened to ground the company. To meet costs, one of the company’s four planes was sold. Instead of cutting service, Bill Franklin, former Vice President of Ground Operations, and other leaders, calculated three airplanes could do the work of four if the planes were in and out of the gate in 10 minutes.”

        “Ten-minute turns “were probably desperate,” Johnson said. “People felt like they were fighting for their jobs. Other airlines were trying to put us out of business.”

        “He slammed his hand on the table and bellowed out, ‘If you can’t do it I’ll fire you and keep firing and firing until I find people who can do it,” said Johnson.”

          • For any airline willing to bring back the DC-3, turn time can apparently be cut to 90 seconds; however typical number of seats would be reduced to 21, cruise speed reduced to about 200 mph and there would be no pressurization – I guess we will thus all have to learn to live with 45 minute turn times. The Southwest Airways referred to in the quote below was precursor to now defunct Pacific Airlines and Air West and has nothing to do with today’s Southwest Airlines.

            “Connelly, president, and Hayward, board chairman, were the majority owners of the airline, and as such could hold sway concerning how the company would operate. Running on slim operating margins, Southwest Airways was a no-frills airline decades before low-cost carriers became common.

            The airline speeded ground operations to the point where a DC-3 could load and discharge passengers and begin taxiing for takeoff 90 seconds after coming to a stop (adding six minutes if fuel is needed). To save money, the airline had its own pilots do the refueling instead of paying airport personnel. Ground time was reduced by keeping one engine running while a male purser quickly escorted passengers to and from the plane. Pacific’s DC-3s were modified with an ‘airstair’, a door that doubled as a staircase for passengers. The airstair eliminated waiting for a ground crew to roll a wheeled staircase up to the plane.

            In August 1953, a daily Southwest DC-3 was scheduled from SFO to LAX in 3 hours and 45 minutes with eight stops.”


          • Thanks AP, start to understand a bit more about Southwest.

            A few questions, who was the main driver for the MAX7 to become an MAX8 shrink and how much longer will it take to de-plane a MAX8 vs 7. The 737-8 takes ~25/30 more pax and is ~4m longer, yes there is the +1 FA.

            See BAC looking at an 737-8ERX, 4000Nm range, 150 pax.

            On the other side believe Southwest could get an above average discount for a big MAX7 order as Boeing wants to keep it alive.

      • The 797 might do a 25-35min turn around if Boeing goes for it and make it a “Twin 737 in one hull” type of Aircraft with better range.
        Boeing can make the Airports modfy the gates at the most busy Airports to allow entrance/exit thru 2 doors simultaneously probably the front ones.
        Lots of Airlines will use it to replace 2ea A320/737 departures within 15minutes like Qantas. The question is if it is made study to take the 737 type of operation if it get too heavy for longer range flights.

        • Again hypothetical. An A300-600R type aircraft build with Al-Li, CFRP wing, 250pax with 50-55Klb engines could be an AB NMA aircraft.

          The A300-600R had an OEM of ~89T (30T less than 332) and a range of 4000Nm at 170T Mtow. A modern version of this aircraft could significantly improve on these figures.

          Such an aircraft could be assembled on the production 330 line?

          • Yes, the original A300 as well as the DC10-10 were MoM Aircraft with systems and Engines available back then. However they were not reliable nor economical enough for Heavy cycling, the DC-10/A300 CF6-50 Engines life on wing cannot be compared to the CFM56-3B’s, hence as narrowbodies grew in size and range the original MoM Aircrafts evolved into longer range and were pulled from short range flying.
            Now Boeing will try again with a widebody for short range flying (of cause it can be filled up to fly 4500nm routes as well). This time with CFRP wings and maybe body and new Engines so we will see how well they can engineer their parts and test/specify all the items bought to produce it.

          • Thanks Claes, will be interesting to know what the 767’s average mission times were/are as they seem “durable”. Missions of 1-3 hours can be hard on an aircraft and engines. OEW/passenger of a single aisle is significantly less than of twin aisles.

          • A few examples of aircraft OEW (kg) per seat;

            B737-8, 45T, 162 seats, 278 kg’s/seat,
            A321, 51T, 206 seats, 248,
            B763ER, 90T, 261 seats, 345,
            A339, 125T(?), 287 seats, 436,
            B789, 129T, 290 seats, 445,
            A359, 140T, 325T seats, 431.

            B788, 120T, 242 seats, 496,
            A338, 123T(?), 257 seats, 479.
            (Few surpizes here?). For a 220 seat NMA to get to 300kg/seat OEW will have to be ~66T, (12T less than an 767-200)

  2. Still theres the issue of this :
    “Southwest deferred delivery of 23 of 30 7 MAXs”
    Surely they have a competant fleet planning department and yet they arent able to plan ahead.
    Im not buying the PR on behalf of Boeing about the 737-7

    • 23/506 for their 737-7 fleet, or summarily 23/706 total fleet (plus they seem to be finding used 737-7s to work into the flightline) looks like a very modest deferral. Hardly an indication of a lack of competence. The opposite, probably: fleet planning should be adjusting to trading conditions, and as the other majors have been announcing big increases in ASMs, it may be smart to go just a little bit slower than previously planned growth.

      • Talk from the top has to match the actions of the company.

        In this case it isnt. Sure a few changes here and there but its 23 of 30 orders of a sub type.
        Southwest may have plans for a ‘large’ fleet of max 7s but until they are doing that we have to ignore the hype. Once they had a big fleet of -500s but have moved on from that size same as they will for -700 and max 7.

    • When WN ordered 30 Max7 in 2011, they had no way of knowing 5 years later the FAA wouldnt allow their pilots to be certified across 3 generations of 737 Flight deck. In 2016, they had to figure out how to retire 137 733s and 735s in 18 months. Theyve been buying used 700s like mad ever since. Now their fleet is way heavier on 143 seat 700s than they ever planned to be in 2011. I told Leeham that last month when he touted the deferral by WN as evidence that Max7 was destined to be a niche and BBJ Jet

      • FAA had nothing to do with it. The pilots wanted too much to change their union contract for a third type of 737.

        • I stand corrected, but the result is the same. In 2011, WN didn’t predict the contractual snafu with their pilots across 3 types. So their deferral of Max7 has little to do with WN fleet planning mistakes, or lack of desire to take on Max7, it has everything to do with having to acquire a boatload of used 700 in the past 2 years.

        • Not completely true. There was a dispute over the language of the max being the same as the contracted 737. However, the FAA stated we would not be allowed 3 different generations of the 737 to be flown by the pilot group. 2 separate discussions, the pilot contract side did not retire the older side of our fleet.

    • Hello dukeofurl,

      Regarding: “Surely they have a competant fleet planning department and yet they arent able to plan ahead.”

      An alternative view might be that fleet planners saved the company a lot of money by reacting swiftly to take advantage of unexpectedly low fuel prices and unexpectedly low prices for used 737-700’s, which Southwest likes but which had fallen out of favor at other airlines, when the combination of low fuel prices and a glut of used 737-700’s temporarily made buying or leasing used more profitable than buying new. See the excerpt below from a 3-10-16 Bloomberg article which may be found at the link after the article.

      “But the trading in used jets can skew the forces of supply and demand. Prices for decade-old Boeing 737-700 jetliners actually rose last year as Southwest dominated the market. The planemaker has delivered 1,116 of the -700, the smallest jet in its current lineup, and Southwest will fly nearly half of them by the time its spree winds down in 2018.

      “Southwest is on the prowl for more used aircraft even though it has ordered 200 of the 737 Max, upgraded planes due to make their commercial debut next year. The Dallas-based carrier also struck a deal with Boeing for 33 new 737-800s late last year.

      “If the economics don’t work, we’ll go new,” Stephens, the Southwest fleet executive, said of the airline’s jet strategy. “That’s the trump card we hold. The leasing community knows that and knows what the Southwest deal is.”

      The airline bought used planes as far back as the 1970s, the decade in which it began flights. But the low-cost carrier never thought seriously about making older planes a competitive weapon until about three years ago. Stephens’s team saw a glut of deeply discounted Boeing 737-700s as the perfect replacement for smaller Boeing 717s that Southwest planned to offload to Delta.”

  3. Max 7 seems like a very heavy and long range aircraft (since it became a max 8 shrink) for the vast majority of their flights.

    Seems like the CS-300 or even E-195- E2 would be better. With CS-300 from Alabama (and given its parts content) they would still be “buying American”. Well, there’s loyalty for you.

    • The 737 MAX 7 increases seat capacity over the 737-700. Presumably, the 737 MAX 7 (er, ahem MAX 7 ½) was an involuntary change that Boeing imposed on its customers, including WN. So, it’s a misnomer to consider these aircraft a one-for-one replacement as the 737-700 ages.

      • I’d wager that Boeing worked with WN very closely to redesign the Max7. The original design wasn’t cutting the mustard, it was a one-off kinda like the 787-8. Now with it being a shrink of the Max8, you saved billions in design and manufacturing costs, you can probably sell it for less, you enabled an increase in range and an increase in seat count.

        Even if it is destined to be a plane that only WN (and maybe FR) flies, they are likely to build several hundred of them. And they’ve given it a chance to be a seller to heavy users of the 737 family as an option for long thin routes.

    • Sorry, they’re staying with the girl they brought to the dance. Oh, and her tag along older sister, the “8”. LOL

      • So, an interesting question occurs to me. The girl they brought to the dance was the 737-700. But maybe they gonna find the 737 MAX 7 as an older half sister, due to the involuntary upgauge?

        • Well, actually she’s younger, and got more to her (pax-wise)! LOL

        • Actually it was the 737 300 (the “classic”) and the 200? that really got them going. The 300s -are just recently finally gone per the pilot’s union demands. I flew on one recently that had retrofitted winglets and thought I was on a 700 until I saw the steam gauges in the cockpit on the way out.

          • The pilot union never demanded that the -300 be retired. The economics of keeping the older older portion fleet along with the new Max offering and the FAA stating basically pick 2 but you can not operate 3 with a single pilot group was the reason the -300 was retired.

    • Shrinks are not always the best way to go. They usually have added weight that cannot be removed from the larger aircraft and that adds weight to the shrink. Southwest is going to continue operating ONLY 737s until Boeing needs to stop building the 737, There are better smaller aircraft but Southwest will not currently consider buying them.

    • To bad for them —— Southwest.

      To be politicly correct? Possible.

  4. Given that SWA is a US phenomenon my understanding maybe somewhat far from the mainstream but surely if they stick with the slow selling end of the B737 range then that opens up the market for other operators who don’t want to fly a second rate 1960’s parts bin special into the sunset?

    If the world outside of SWA sees the Max7 as a dog that don’t hunt then a competitor using the CS300 would have a big advantage.

    Fair point about the collection of secondary airports with tricky runways at the heart of the SWA offer but it all seems a bit Henry and the Model T.

    Sooner or later change is going to come and a CEO without any imagination or vision is heading for involuntary retirement.

    • Similar to what I said a week or two ago re: BA: SWA like the Dude, will abide!

    • The 737 might be old design in many parts but it is reliable, fairly cheap to build and 3+3 seating make it popular for short haul traffic.

  5. Kelly said, though he conceded the carrier will look at the prospective Boeing NMA/797.

    The 797 could appeal to WN if BA builds an overpowered variant like the 767-200er, which had great short field performance. Even at MDW, that variant had a take-off run that is less than MDW’s longest two runways.

  6. Until the flight attendant to pax ratio changes this makes sense. It would be tough for any new entrant to compete with any of the US4, and the marginally more thirsty southwest fleet vs theoretical competitors is not a real factor.

    I’ve figured they just accept spending an extra twenty percent on fuel to standardize to a single type fleet, and make it up elsewhere. They also probably forgo several hundred million a year in bag fees, I assume as a differentiator and to speed turn around times. It is a unique model still, even though it’s not a cheaper one any longer overall.

    • With the free bags, no added fees to change your reservation, decent legroom, lots of flight options, segment pricing that is totally transparant, etc. they are the most user friendly US airline; the legacy airline are a joke by comparison.

      If they used the CS-300 instead of the Max 7 some people (like moi) would not want to fly on their 738/Max 8 routes.

      • “The system, not the airplane, but the airplane is a key part of the system.”

  7. Having just flown WN last weekend I was left wondering if there was significance to the latest flight safety leaflet. It covers 700,800 and Max8. No mention of Max7. Maybe they have to replace them so often that they don’t need to look ahead. Or maybe they have to be approved and they can’t get that done yet for Max7

    “but he has no interest in anything but the 737 “as long as I am CEO.” Hopefully he doesn’t have to negotiate prices with Boeing again as long as he is CEO !!

    I was talking to a flight attendant during the trip at an intermediate stop on the way to DC, and mentioned that the 20 minute turn was no longer a reality, and she told me about the 10 minute turns ! Now they struggle to do it in 40. Is it all longer aircraft and roller bags, or are there other issues as well. For instance, they don’t have new passengers coming on the instant that the last passenger has left.

    • Flight planning is more time consuming than it used to be. Fuel, passengers, finding a way in congested routes, weather. They have more information at their fingertips but takes longer to put together for the crew, who no longer just fill the tanks and push the throttles full back and head directly for destination.

    • While its very true they don’t do 10 minute turns anymore, they still turn their jets around faster than their competitors. Look no further for evidence than DAL, where they fly 180 flights a day out of 16.5 gates. Every day. Flying a single type has big advantages when it comes to keeping your jets in the air earning $ for the airline.

      But yes, flight planning is more time consuming, and they aren’t flying 122 seat jets with 70-75% load factors anymore. They’re 143 or 175 seat jets running 85%, and the pax are definitely carrying on more.

  8. Boeing list prices for 737-7 96M, 737-8 117.1
    Say SW get them for 40%, 38M and 46M or so. That still saves 8M per aircraft plus the cost of a flight attendant for 20 years if they are only filling 150 seats. Personally I think 150 seats is enough for a single aisle, I don’t even like the 737-8 for too much aisle congestion.

    Hopefully SW buy a few hundred if it was built for them. Same with the 777x and Emirates, although the development cost of the 777x was probably about a hundred times the cost of the 737-7 variant, so a much bigger gamble.

  9. The redesigned Max7 will be a perfect aircraft for WN. Range will be 3900+ nm after 2021, theyll likely outfit it with 149 seats with ~32 inches of pitch. This will allow them to stay with 2 FA. Will have great short field performance and amazing range, it will open up South America and Western Europe for them.

    • Hello Alex,

      Regarding: “theyll likely outfit it with 149 seats with ~32 inches of pitch. This will allow them to stay with 2 FA”.

      Actually in the US three flight attendants are required for 101 to 150 seats and four flight attendants for 151 to 200 seats, thus 149 seats would require 3 flight attendants and be 2 seats short of requiring 4 flight attendants. See below.

      Ҥ 121.391 Flight attendants.

      (a) Except as specified in § 121.393 and § 121.394, each certificate holder must provide at least the following flight attendants on board each passenger-carrying airplane when passengers are on board:

      (1) For airplanes having a maximum payload capacity of more than 7,500 pounds and having a seating capacity of more than 9 but less than 51 passengers – one flight attendant.

      (2) For airplanes having a maximum payload capacity of 7,500 pounds or less and having a seating capacity of more than 19 but less than 51 passengers – one flight attendant.

      (3) For airplanes having a seating capacity of more than 50 but less than 101 passengers – two flight attendants.

      (4) For airplanes having a seating capacity of more than 100 passengers – two flight attendants plus one additional flight attendant for each unit (or part of a unit) of 50 passenger seats above a seating capacity of 100 passengers.

      I suspect that one reason the 737-700 appeals more to Southwest than it does to the US Big Three is that for Southwest it is a 143 passenger plane, close to the max for 3 flight attendants, whereas for Delta it is a 124 seat plane, and for United it is a 118 to 126 seat plane. The costs of two pilots, three flight attendants, gate agents, ramp crew, fuel, and everything else is spread over about 20 percent more passengers for Southwest than it is for Delta or United. Part of this can be made up for by the 10 or 12 first class seats that Delta and United put on a 737-700, if they can sell them at a high markup instead of giving them way free or cheap to frequent flyers. Southwest has all coach cabins with seat pitches all throughout the cabin about the same as those in Delta or United’s economy cabin.

      • Sorry yes 3 FA not 4. Not super great on the details tonight, but the # of FA will be why they go 149 seats in this jet.

    • “open up South America and Western Europe for them.”

      Are you sure about that one ? Do they even fly to Canada ? Must be good reasons for that

      • High costs: everything from ATC to customs to airport fees are very, very dear up here.

        WN adds Alaska well before they add Canada, or Europe, given their struggles with integrating Hawaii. More South American destinations, however, would be right up their alley.

  10. Very excited to see Alaska as a target for expansion. Alaska Airlines needs some competition to/from the 49th state. I wonder if Southwest will challenge them on the ANC-SEA route or go for OAK, LAS, or DEN.

    • DL, B6, and AA (UA too I believe) also serve ANC and FAI, but yes AS has their namesake state on lock. Their subsidiary QX also flies Q400 turboprops to smaller communities.

      My wager is WN tries for cities in the midwest like St Louis, Kansas City, Salt Lake, Las Vegas, Albequerque, etc.

  11. “He also said Southwest looks at all aircraft, including the Bombardier CSeries—but he has no interest in anything but the 737 ‘as long as I am CEO.’“

    This guy is a moron. Even if you’re thinking that, don’t say it! You might as well just tape a sign to your head that says “I’m a chump” when going into the negotiations.

    • Unless Boeing does a single type rating for the upcoming 797 NMA and (future) 808 NSA, Southwest is gonna have to bite the bullet and plan for its pilots to be split into two fleets.

      Actually, once Boeing dumps the 737 MAX to compete properly with powerful Airbus + Bombardier, Southwest will be forced into two pilot fleets. It will remain this way until the MAX is retired from their fleet in 2030s.

    • He’s just being diplomatic. Not burning bridges before they’re built is just sound business.

    • A five to seven year wait on taking the 737Max 7 could be a long time. If BA says they’re going to start a NSA not too long after that, SW could be left with a real dinosaur (See UA 737-700 order). The CSeries planes could really be giving them a run for their money by then (and the E195E2.) Also, running the Max7 to long destinations will be up against really competition. It will be up against 321s, 797s, and other really efficient machines. Herb Kelleher was one of a kind. What he did in one era, might not apply to another.

      • If BA says they’re going to start a NSA not too long after that, SW could be left with a real dinosaur (See UA 737-700 order).

        The craziest thing about UA’s order for 65 737-700s that BA fought hard to give away at fire sale prices (to thwart Bombardier) is that they are no longer on UA’s order book. Instead 61 of these 65 orders have moved to the 737 MAX! CRAZY! (United swapped out the 100 orders for the MAX 9 to the MAX 10; and around the same time, they moved 61 737-700s to the MAX 9)!

        • There’s a new United Fleet plan chart out in the last week or so (did not find the link.) This is after they announced they did not want smaller planes. The chart says they are looking at CSeries and Embraers (195E2). I also saw they are adding some RJ200s to their feeder network. United appears to be reacting to the competition. As noted, we might be going to a fractured hub and spoke system.

          • It was an investors presentation, so look at UA’s 8K SEC filings or under Investors on its web site.

          • Thanks, looks basically like all aircraft between 100-250 seats except the 737-9 of which they still have 61 on order.

            Realistically I see they could go for the 321 (LR?) as the MAX10 shy on range and they do need 752 replacements. Can also see they could replace 320CEO’s with MAX8’s and a just maybe replace 319’s with 320NEO’s if they go for 321NEO’s to warrant a “pool” of Airbus certified pilots?

  12. Interesting reading for me that have only traveled a few times in the US domestic.

    Requirements for fast turnarounds will make an NMA with 2-3-2 seating a sought after aircraft. Maybe I am wrong but looks what is most required is an aircraft with 220-240 seats, 4000-45000Nm range, 40Klb engines (Model-1).

    The larger (270 seats) should ideally have a range of ~5000Nm which will require its own wing and engine (50Klb?) to be optimized aircraft. If Boeing goes this route the “797” could be a real hit with airlines.

    Think “Model-1” will be the “primary” model that Southwest will definitely have more than two looks at.

    • I question the need for a second aisle to provide fast turn around times on flights beyond 2,000 nm. Then the 2-3-2 is again beaten by a slightly larger 2-4-2.

      • Hello MHalblaub,

        I agree with you that ground turn time becomes less important as flight length increases; however, people are more likely to need to get out of their seats and go to a restroom as flight length increases, and on non-budget airlines food and drink service will increase as trip length increases, which will cause a further increase in trips to a restroom. The longer a single aisle aircraft gets, the longer will be the time the service carts are in the aisle blocking access to the restrooms for some percentage of the passengers. In my experience, when much is attempted in the way of meal service in long single aisle aircraft, there is a tendency for recurring traffic jams to develop when the one and only aisle is blocked by one or more service carts. With two aisles and multiple carts, serving order can be coordinated to minimize the amount of time that all possible routes to a restroom, or a chance to just get up and stretch your legs, are blocked by one or more service carts, especially when it is possible to change aisles in an emergency exit or galley area.

        Here is an example from a not all that long flight that I was on last week. I was flying on a Delta A321-200 in First Class from Salt Lake City to Atlanta. Time from takeoff to landing was about 3 hours, of which about 2 hours was at either the initial cruising altitude of 31,000 feet, or the final cruising altitude of 35,000 feet. A hot dinner was served in First Class (20 seats), with the First Class attendant hand carrying menus selections to each passenger, and in coach the Delta Comfort (29 seats) and Main Cabin (143 seats) flight attendants provided complimentary snacks and non-alcoholic beverages, and deli items and alcoholic beverages for purchase form two service carts (maybe free in Delta Comfort?). About 30 minutes before landing, when the A321 had just started descending from the final cruising altitude of 35,000 feet, it was about the time after the meal service when quite a few people were getting up to use the restroom, as I wanted to do. When someone kept getting up faster than I did every time someone left the First Class restroom. I decided to head back out of First Class to see if there were lines for the Main Cabin restrooms. Delta has configured their A321’s with one restroom in First Class, and three in the Main Cabin, of which one is just behind the wings, and two are at the very rear of the cabin. I was also looking for an excuse to go check out the Main Cabin configuration since I had not been on a Delta A321 prior to this trip. Alas, after two hours at cruising altitude, with the aircraft 30 minutes from landing, the service carts were still (or again?) in the aisle. All Main Cabin restrooms and my tour of the main cabin were blocked by two service carts (drink cart and deli cart?) at the front of the Main Cabin section. Since I had not been looking over my shoulder keeping tabs on what was going on behind First Class, I don’t know for sure whether the carts were still on their first pass through the Main Cabin; however, past experience waiting and waiting and waiting for the service cart to reach me in coach, and the following calculation, make me suspect that this was probably the case.

        Delta’s A321’s have 29 Delta Comfort Seats and 143 Main Cabin Seats, thus if all seats are full serving the combined (29 + 143) = 172 passengers in Delta Comfort or Main Cabin during two hours, i.e. 120 minutes at cruising altitude would require that passengers be served at the rate of 172 passengers per 120 minutes = 1.4 passengers per minute from one cart, or 1.4 / 2 = 0.7 passengers per minutes from two carts, which seems to me to be about as fast as would be possible for the food that was being offered on this flight.

        Since this is a thread about Southwest, I should probably note that if things have not changed on Southwest since 10 years ago when I stopped flying frequently on Southwest, then the meal service they would provide is drinks and small bags of peanuts, in which case Southwest or a similar airline could move service carts though the aisles faster than Delta does.

        • With the NMA talks increasing the advantage of a twin aisle for boarding and de-planing is often discussed. Your comments made me think about the advantages of quicker on board service, preparing the cabin for landing on shorter (2-3 hour) flights and getting it ready for boarding for the next flight.

          Such an aircraft could be stretched or shrinked by 30 seats depends on market demand.

          An aircraft optimized around a typical seat layout of ~250 seats with an ~4500Nm max range is becoming clearer in my own mind, such an aircraft will serve 125 pax per aisle, in the same ball park as the 737-700 “classic”.

  13. Gary Kelly is focused onto Groundworthiness. Very correctly so ! Aircraft make money for the airline when flying, not when turning around on ground. People want to get from A to B, they don’t want to wait at A nor to wait at B. The MAX-7 (also 737-700 or any other MAX or NG size 3+3 cross-section) hasn’t got enough carry-on volume so travellers get tied down to their rollerbags in the underbelly holds with an ombilical string which Gary Kelly would want to secate if he could but with bulk holds there is little luck. This factor and 3+3 and he is stuck with penalizing turn-around times, whatever much pressure he puts on his ground handling people. Groundworthiness is simply not in the DNA of the 737, it never was.
    But if he uses Google to search with these keywords : “groundworthiness certificate”, [“73X” or “A32X”] he may find what he is looking for …

    • I have an idea! WN could be the first carrier to implement an EVIL “bags fly free in the belly of the plane ONLY, and roller carry-on luggage will entail a $25 fee”.

      • How about bags fly free in cabin but the passenger must take it’s place in the hold!

  14. “The 7 MAX, which has an advertised range of more than 3,800nm, could become a trans-Atlantic airplane in the distant future.” The 737 is going to be next dominant airplane over the Atlantic in 10 years time. The trend has already begun with the Max-8.

  15. The question remains unanswered until the dates approach.

    Is the 737-8 really the new 737-700?

    As I recall the 800 was a trial and now the 800/8 are the ones being purchased (new) as well as to where the deferrals are shifting.

    If we see deferrals to the -8 stop, then we have a clue. Until then, it can as easily mean no -7.

    • Hello TransWorld,

      Regarding: Is the 737-8 really the new 737-700?

      Below is what Southwest had to say about their route strategy and the uses to which they were putting 737-800’s in the “Company Operations” section of their 2016 annual report (See pages 1 and 2 in the 2016 report at the link after the quote). The 2015 annual report had language that was very similar, if not identical. By my reading of this, Southwest is clearly saying, as they have consistently, that their 737-700’s (513 in fleet – and in the future 737-7’s) are for their ” high-frequency short-haul routes” and their 737-800’s (186 in fleet) and 737-8’s (13 in fleet – fleet numbers are as of February 2018 per Wikipedia) are for “long-haul routes, as well as high-demand, slot-controlled, and gate-restricted airports”. Clearly most other people here read and hear the same statements that I do (perhaps though I am one of the few that reads Southwest Annual Reports?) and reach all types of other conclusions about what they say, rather than what they seem to me to very clearly say. In recent years most of Southwest’s growth has been in long haul routes (Hawaii is coming soon) after they saturated most of the markets appropriate for their high frequency short haul service model, and they have been snapping up used 737-700’s, thus the need for new 737-700’s or 737-7’s is limited until the supply of good used 737-7000’s has petered out, and/or their oldest 737-700’s (now about 20 years old) are ready for retirement in a few years. Note that Mr. Hamilton stated in his blog post that Southwest CEO Kelly said that: “The current fleet of 737-700s won’t see retirements until about 2022, at which time the need for the 7 MAX arises”.

      From Southwest’s 2016 Annual Report.

      “Southwest principally provides point-to-point service, rather than the “hub-and-spoke” service provided by most major U.S. airlines. The hub-and-spoke system concentrates most of an airline’s operations at a limited number of central hub cities and serves most other destinations in the system by providing one-stop or connecting service through a hub. By not concentrating operations through one or more central transfer points, Southwest’s point-to-point route structure has allowed for more direct
      nonstop routing than hub-and-spoke service. Approximately 76 percent of the Company’s Customers flew nonstop during 2016, and, as of December 31, 2016, Southwest served 657 nonstop city pairs.

      Southwest’s point-to-point service has also enabled it to provide its markets with frequent, conveniently timed flights and low fares. For example, Southwest currently offers 20 weekday roundtrips between Dallas Love Field and Houston Hobby, 13 weekday roundtrips between Burbank
      and Oakland, 12 weekday roundtrips between San Diego and San Jose, 10 weekday roundtrips between Denver and Chicago Midway, and eight weekday roundtrips between Phoenix and Las Vegas

      Southwest complements its high-frequency short-haul routes with long-haul nonstop service between markets such as Los Angeles and Nashville, Las Vegas and Orlando, San Diego and Baltimore, Houston and New York LaGuardia, and Oakland and Baltimore. During 2016, the Company continued to incorporate the Boeing 737-800 aircraft into its fleet, which offers significantly more Customer seating capacity than Southwest’s other aircraft. This has enabled the Company to more economically serve long-haul routes, as well as high-demand, slot-controlled, and gate-restricted airports, by adding seats for such routes without increasing the number of flights (a “slot” is the right of an air carrier, pursuant to regulations of the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”), to operate a takeoff or landing
      at a specific time at certain airports). For 2016, the Company’s average aircraft trip stage length was 760 miles, with an average duration of approximately 2.0 hours, as compared with an average aircraft trip stage length of 750 miles and an average duration of approximately 2.0 hours in 2015.”

      • Below is how Southwest described their business model in their 1997 annual report (see page 9), before they branched out into medium and long haul US domestic routes after running out of US short haul markets to invade and conquer. Note in particular: “We offer lots of flights to meet business travelers’ demands for schedule convenience and flexibility”. For a market of a given size, if aircraft with higher seating capacities are used, flight frequency will need to be reduced; however, Southwest says that they believe (or at least did in 1997) that short haul business travelers want lots of flights “for schedule convenience and flexibility”.

        “Our operating strategy is unique in the airline industry, and it has, indeed, revolutionized air travel over the last 26 years. We start with a principal focus on the shorthaul traveler, where our average flight time is about an hour. We streamline service to meet the shorthaul traveler’s needs. Then, we identify city pairs that can generate substantial amounts of business and leisure traffic with Southwest service.

        We offer lots of flights to meet business travelers’ demands for schedule
        convenience and flexibility. We offer low fares that meet all travelers’
        needs, especially leisure travelers. We specialize in nonstop, not
        connecting, service. In our experience, this is what Customers want in
        shorthaul markets. And it is far more cost-efficient than the accepted “hub and spoke” industry standard.

        This market focus allows us to be substantially more efficient and
        productive than the rest of the airline industry. Our aircraft and airport
        facilities are used continuously throughout the day, maximizing utilization and minimizing ground time. Our aircraft “turn” times at the airport are less than half the industry standard. Therefore, we get lots more use of our aircraft and much lower unit costs.

        We also use only one aircraft type, the Boeing 737, in an all-coach
        configuration. This substantially reduces costs versus the industry due to
        simplified operations, training, scheduling, and maintenance. Our fleet of 737’s is young, safe, comfortable, clean, and perfectly suited for shorthaul flights.

        Our fare structure is simple and this means the cost of selling our product is less than industry average. Over 60 percent of our Customers buy travel on Southwest on a ticketless basis — it is easier for our Customers and less expensive for Southwest than a paper ticket. Boarding the aircraft is also fast and efficient.”

      • Thanks AP, I didn’t realize that they serve 657 non-stop city pairs, impressive. Then you start to realize how important quick turnaround times are for them.

        Was wondering if DAL wants to use the CS-X aircraft for their “spoke-routes” or planning to increase direct city pair destinations. You should be able to achieve real quick turnaround times with an CS100.

  16. Q+D analysis — SWA vs RA vs EJ ?

    Average flight length vs Average revenue as the main element of comparison plus Average load factor to add some extra detail.

    SWA = mature market with legacy issues.
    Some long term routes do not have much growth potential.

    RY and EJ are still in a growth market.
    More mature in some markets, very growth orientated in others.

    Wiki facts point to SWA having a higher average revenue per active plane. Allows them to offer the free drinks?

    Would RY or EJ work in the US?
    Are some people trying that now?

    • Hello Fat Bloke,

      I have no personal experience with Ryanair and EasyJet, but I believe that US fee for everything, low seat pitch, low customer satisfaction airlines Frontier (standard seat pitch 28 to 29 inches) and Spirit (standard seat pitch 28 inches) are somewhat similar to them. Personally, I think that Frontier and Spirit will capture some percentage of the market, but that there is a limit to the percentage of people who would rather put up with 28 seat pitch rather than pay a little more and get 31 to 32 inches of seat pitch on Southwest, or 30 to 33 inches of seat pitch on the US big three. If airlines were homebuilders, trailer parks have their cost advantages which will be attractive to many customers on a tight budget (as I was in my graduate school days); however, I do not think they will put either builders of traditional non-mobile homes or fancy luxury homes out of business, because some people strongly prefer traditional non-mobile homes or luxury homes over mobile homes and are willing and able to pay more for them.

  17. Thanks for the detail AP, appreciated. WN looks like a “mean oiled machine”. Was interesting to see their general seat layout is at 31-33″ pitch. Very different from the European LCC’s.

    • Hello Anton,

      I have no personal experience with European LCC’s, but I believe that you are correct that Southwest is much different. In addition to having the same or better seat pitch as non-premium coach in the US big three, Southwest fees are generally lower than average rather than higher than average. You get two checked bags free, there is no fee for changing your ticket other than the difference in ticket price, and for a last minute change and the difference in ticket price will generally be much lower for Southwest than it is for the US big three. (Your business meeting ended at 2PM instead of 5 PM, if there is seat on an earlier plane that won’t cost $$$$ maybe you can get home for dinner or get early to the city where you do a sales presentation tomorrow?) There is no extra charge for the peanuts and a non-alcoholic drink. Southwest’s customer satisfaction scores are generally very high, rather than very low as is the case for Ryanair and EasyJet , and for what seem to me to be their closest US fee for everything low seat pitch counterparts, Frontier (standard seat pitch 28 to 29inches) and Spirit (Standard seat pitch 28 inches). Southwest ties to pull coach passengers away from the big three both with lower prices for the very particular types of routes that they specialize in, and some perks that are better than what you get as a non-frequent flying coach customer at the US big three; however, I would never trade a US big three first class ticket for any type of Southwest ticket on the same route.

      Here are the 2017 ACSI customer satisfaction rates for US airlines. To add some data (or fuel?) to the fraction of inch of extra seat width is everything debate, note that all 737 Southwest has the second highest score, while all Airbus Frontier and Spirit have by fare the two lowest scores.

      JetBlue: 82
      Southwest: 80
      Alaska: 78
      American: 76
      Delta: 76
      Allegiant: 74
      United: 70
      Frontier: 63
      Spirit: 61

      • Hello AP, I have only traveled domestic in the US 3 times with the family, twice with jetBlue and once on a legacy airline (code sharing arrangements). My personal experience underwrites the jetBlue rating.

        Heading towards Colorado summer this year for work, this post temps me to try Southwest on one of the routes although I can go in the front, but for “tick the box stuff”.

  18. I think it was a good idea to stretch the -700/-7 fuselage 2 rows. No doubt SW approved it, or a little more than approved it..

  19. The problem with the 737 is the short landing gear, it was intended for manual cargo loading at secondary airfields with no lifts back in the 1960s, using turbojets. (something which the original models did well)
    However it has been stretched a bit too far, can no longer rotate quickly and has hit max engine diameter. (The old lower capacity models can takeoff in 6500 feet at mtow, the -900 needs about 10 000 feet)
    Boeing really needs to replace most of the the 737s with something more like a smallish 757, which was designed for mid range trips and high-hot airports like Denver, the 757 used the same width tube as the 737 but had full height landing gear allowing proper high bypass turbofans and much quicker rotation at the same length of the 373-900. The old 757-200 was actually a tad longer than the 739 but needed 3000 feet less runway at MTOW. (Wing design was unique on the 757 too but I’ll leave that debate to Boeing’s engineers)

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