Southwest doesn’t rule out fleet type expansion beyond the 717

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Southwest Airlines is acknowledging that it may have to consider additional fleet types beyond the Boeing 717 operated by AirTran Airways, which Southwest in the process of acquiring.

In September when Southwest unveiled its plans to purchase its low-fare rival AirTran, Southwest chief executive Gary Kelly stated the 86 717s AirTran currently operates offer enough scale for Southwest to incorporate them in its fleet effectively.

During Southwest's recent investor day carrier chief operating officer Mike Van de Ven explained the carrier's single fleet philosophy was "one of those bellwether things that we've talked about, that has given us a lot of operational advantage".

But Van de Ven also acknowledges that "at some point 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".

 

 
   

Van de Ven says that as the 717 comes online and the new types are introduced, "we are going to have to be good at doing that [operating more than one fleet type]".

He stresses that shouldn't be interpreted at Southwest deciding to operate multiple fleet types. "I think, depending on what the mission of the airplanes is, maybe two, maybe up to three. I don't know," Van de Ven explains.