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Going Green: From the Green Plane to Evolve—Charting a New Course for Sustainable Cabins

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I love writing and learning about everything Green, but today is definitely a special Green Tuesday for me.  It was slightly more than two years ago that we were reading these headlines:

“Southwest Unveils Green Plane.”  “Southwest Airlines Debuts ‘Green Plane’ With Environmentally Friendly Interior Materials.”  “Southwest Tests Green Airplane.” 

In 2009, that was what the news had to say when we announced the launch of our Green Plane to test the latest sustainable products onboard an aircraft.  Hopefully today, you’ve heard the big news about Evolve: The New Southwest Interior, which incorporates many elements of the Green Plane The project started as a partnership between Maintenance & Engineering and Marketing to improve the Inflight Customer Experience and increase the durability of our onboard materials without adding cost.  Not only was that goal met, but so was our commitment to the triple bottom line, specifically the Planet! 

With the help of the Green Team, the launch of the Green Plane test yielded the following products  that are incorporated into our new sustainable cabin:

  • Seats: The new seats are constructed using eco-friendly products that offer more durability of the current seat, as well as a weight savings of nearly six pounds per seat.  A lighter weight fill from Franklin Products in the back of the seat provides increased Customer comfort.  The improved durability of the redesigned seat coupled with fuel savings from 635 pounds less weight per aircraft is expected to result in more than $10 million in ongoing annual cost savings, as well as emission reductions.
  • Seat Cover: 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 seat cover also has a longer life-cycle of two years than today’s cover.
  • Seat Frame: In our mission to improve the Customer Experience yet increase sustainability and contain costs, we will preserve the interior foundation as part of the redesign by using the existing B/E Aerospace Innovator II seat frame on 372 of our existing -700 fleet (excluding AirTran’s -700s). By using the existing seat frames, we avoid spending an additional $50 million to refresh the cabin. 
  • Carpet: The new interior carpet is produced by InterfaceFLOR and will be applied in carpet squares, thus eliminating the need for total replacement of individual areas and reducing labor and material costs. The carpet is manufactured in a closed loop recycled process dedicated to being completely carbon neutral.
  • Life Vest Pouch: The new pouch containing the life vest is more environmentally friendly, offering a weight savings of one pound per seat. The smaller pouch also creates more room under the seat for carryon items.
  • Wind Screen: The new bulkhead product has a longer lifespan, thus reducing the labor costs and waste that result from more frequent replacements or repairs.
  • Durable Recyclable Aluminum: By switching from plastic to a recyclable aluminum, we are increasing durability and reducing waste on the rub strips, tray table latches, and seat arm trim pieces. 

Southwest is built for the long-haul, and as you can see from the new cabin materials, we are focused on using our resources wisely.  It’s also about comfort for our Customers and giving back to the environment.  We know that Environmental decisions make good business sense, and these more durable products reduce waste and, at the end of their lifecycle, are recycled.  Without a doubt, the revolutionary changes we’re making today uphold our low-cost philosophy and Customer focus.

We hope you’ll enjoy this brighter, more comfortable, environmentally friendly cabin when the new Evolve interior enters our fleet.  What’s your favorite environmental upgrade with the new Evolve interior?  Let us know by commenting below.  DING!  You are now free to be green!