Growing up and rewriting the playbook

It’s been a staple at Southwest’s 39-year history. Keep it simple and cost effective by operating a single fleet type.

But that tune’s being sung less and less by the carrier these days as it comes to the realization that the venerable 737 just can’t make money in every market.  It only takes a few seats just shy of its 122-seat 737-500s to open up more revenue-generating markets.

The carrier alluded to that when it opted to keep AirTran’s 86 (soon to be 87) 717s after it firms up its acquisition of AirTran and gains a single operating certificate.

And now the carrier says it’s not ruling out a fleet type beyond the 717. While Boeing and Airbus give mixed signals about new aircraft from Bombardier, Comac, and Sukhoi being threats to their current duopoloy, the playing field has definitely changed. Even Southwest places Bombarider’s CSeries in the same company as the A320 and 737.

Here’s what Southwest COO Mike Van de Ven had to say recently at the carrier’s investor day:

“At some point in time a new airplane is going to come out, whether it’s the CSeries or whether Boeing replaces the 737. And at some point in time, Airbus is going to replace the A320.”

You can interpret this a million different ways, but it’s interesting a top Southwest executive singaled out the CSeries by name alongside the narrowbody stalwarts.

Also a point to highlight is Van de Ven stresses Southwest needs to get adept at managing two fleet types and ”better learn from it”. He also states that while Southwest won’t ever offer multiple fleet types, the carrier could eventually operate two or three.

And what will those two or three be?  Let’s see what happens as Southwest gets some operational experience with the 117-seat 717, and the timeframe of those aircraft coming off lease and the CSeries entry into service.

Meanwhile, to see what CEO Gary Kelly sings at home — check out this video…>


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