Southwest Airlines expects its fleet size to be down slightly in 2013, as it retires 13 Boeing 737 Classic aircraft and transfers 16 AirTran Airways Boeing 717-200s to Delta Air Lines.
The Dallas-based carrier's chief financial officer Tammy Romo gave the fleet update in an earnings call today. "From an overall fleet perspective, it will be down just slightly in terms of the number of aircraft," she says.
Southwest operates 737-300s, -500s, -700s and -800s and has orders for the re-engined 737 Max. It also acquired 88 717s when it bought its subsidiary AirTran. As of end-2012, it had 694 aircraft in service.
The airline, when asked if the planned 13 aircraft to be retired in 2013 are -300s or -500s, says: "We have not provided that level of detail on the 13 Classic retirements planned for 2013. We have flexibility with our fleet retirements, but 13 is our plan and we will report on our retirements as the year progresses."
Flightglobal's Ascend Online database shows that Southwest has 13 737-300s and one 737-500 in storage. The airline has 128 737-300s and 20 737-500s still in service.
Southwest chief executive Gary Kelly has said the airline plans to retire its 737 Classics by the end of the decade.
The airline's 717s will begin leaving the fleet from August 2013, following a deal it signed earlier in 2012 to sub-lease the 88 aircraft to Delta. Sixteen 717s will be transferred to Delta this year, and 36 aircraft will be transferred in 2014 and 2015 each.
Southwest's fleet plan shows that the airline will take delivery of 20 737-800s this year.
Romo says today that she expects the airline's first quarter capacity to be flat year-on-year, while second quarter capacity will grow in the 2% to 3% range. Southwest has said previously that it will grow full-year capacity in 2013 by 2%, driven by extra seats on its 737-700s and the addition of more 737-800s to its fleet.
The airline is in the process of adding six extra seats to each of its 737-700s in a cabin retrofit project dubbed "Evolve", which will increase the number of seats on each aircraft to 143.
As of the end of 2012, 259 aircraft have been retrofitted with the extra seats, says Southwest today. It expects to have all 372 737-700s retrofitted with the extra seats by June 2013, and to have 78 of its 737-300s retrofitted by end-2013.
Southwest had said previously that it will make sense to retrofit a good portion of its 737 Classics with the extra seats, because this will allow the airline some fleet flexibility as the 717s exit the airline. The extra seats will also present a revenue opportunity, the airline has said.
Southwest's 737-300s have 137 seats each, which is the same number of seats as its 737-700s pre-retrofit.