Southwest believes re-engining is the only viable option in the near term

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Southwest Airlines believes re-engining of existing narrowbodies is fast becoming the only option for airlines looking for a 15% cost benefit as fresh narrowbody designs will not emerge until after 2020.

"I think what is going to happen is that the decision is almost going to be made for us," Southwest executive vice president of strategy and planning Bob Jordan tells ATI. "We're 12 or more years away [from a new narrowbody design], and we cant' wait that long for a step change in aircraft costs."

Jordan says if a re-engined option emerges much sooner that creates a significant cost benefit, "what happens is you de facto end up with a decision because it is the only option in any reasonable amount of time".

He says Southwest hasn't made a firm decision on re-engining, but "personally I would be very surprised if re-engining isn't the option we pursue".

Jordan also believes manufacturers need to commit to the 12%-15% step change in efficiency a re-engined narrowbody could deliver. "Boeing is a fantastic partner, but we need both our engine manufacturer GE and Boeing to step up and take the lead."