Southwest cites seat cost advantage of the 737-800 over the -700

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Southwest is disclosing more details of its evaluation of the Boeing 737-800 as it draws close to a decision on placing an order for the larger aircraft.

The carrier expects to soon make a decision regarding the 737-800, and has already concluded tentative agreements with pilots and flight attendants to add the aircraft to its fleet. Operating the -800 requires a fourth flight attendant.

During a recent interview with ATI Southwest vice president of strategy and planning Bob Jordan explained the 737-800 has a roughly 12%-15% cost advantage of the -700, which allows the carrier another step change in managing its costs.

But he explains, "it has to be the right markets, you have to be able to put 175 passengers on the plane, so you can't put it into a market that supports only 130-seats, so you have to have the right markets".

Jordan says if the -800 can provide Southwest between a 10% and 15% cost per seat advantage, "It just becomes a real attractive option to help us manage costs going forward."

During Southwest's annual media day carrier chief executive Gary Kelly stated potential missions for the 737-800 include long-haul, low frequency markets and slot controlled airports. Kelly says the configuring the aircraft for extended over water operations would also allow Southwest to consider a destination like Hawaii.