A milestone event happened today at Southwest! Today, we changed our schedule by introducing aircraft with the new “Evolve” interior that we unveiled on Jan. 17, and the 737-800. The new equipment types were planned in advance, so these are equipment changes on existing flights with no “net-new” flying. This particular milestone comes from a tremendous amount of behind-the-scenes preparation work, and takes us a giant step down the path towards the future of Southwest Airlines.
The first new type added to the schedule today is our 737-700s with the innovative eco-friendly “Evolve” interior. Southwest’s Maintenance Crews are preparing to install the interiors on our -700s in March, and the first few aircraft sporting the new interior until April.
Beginning on April 11, we will start assigning “Evolve” aircraft to specific lines of flying, starting with 10 aircraft and increasing the number of planes almost weekly. In fact, the number of “Evolve” aircraft will be going up as fast as a car’s odometer zipping up the interstate, reaching 100 aircraft by June. For those of you with access to industry schedule feeds, we’re using the equipment code “73W” for the “Evolve” -700s, instead of the industry-standard equipment code 73G.
The second new equipment change (and the “bigger” news with nearly 30 percent increased capacity than the -700!) is the introduction of our brand-new 737-800s, which also will enter service on April 11. Our newest Boeing planes will come equipped with the “Sky Interior,” which has larger window treatments, cool variable lighting, and larger overhead bins for a little change to your flying experience. The aircraft will seat 175 Passengers and will give us the capability of long-range overwater flights (which involves a lengthy yet interesting certification process that I’ll blog about later).
Our -800 adventure starts small, with just two aircraft overnighting at Chicago Midway and Baltimore/Washington and flying to and from Florida. After that, the -800 fleet will grow gradually, adding two more on April 22, two more on May 13, and by the August schedule, we’ll have more than 20 -800s flying longer-haul routes like between Chicago Midway and the West Coast, between Baltimore/Washington and California, and between Florida and Las Vegas. These flights will carry the code “73H.”
For anyone out there (and I’m one of you!) who tracks “first flights,” our first 737-800 flight is scheduled to be flight #1717, Chicago Midway to Ft. Lauderdale, leaving Wednesday, April 11 at 7:00 a.m. CST.
This is just one of a number of steps in Southwest’s evolution in 2012. It’s going to be a phenomenal year, folks—come join us and fasten your seat belts, because it’s going to be a GREAT ride!