Southwest to grow capacity by 2% in 2013

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Southwest Airlines will grow capacity in 2013 by 2%, driven by extra seats on its Boeing 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". Southwest chief commercial officer Bob Jordan says in an investors day event today that the airline will have 243 aircraft with the additional seats by end-2012. With the extra six seats, each 737-700 will have 143 seats each.

By the second quarter of 2013, all 372 737-700s will have the additional seats, says Jordan.

Southwest took delivery of its first 737-800 in March and will have 34 of the bigger aircraft type by end-2012. Another 20 will be delivered in 2013 for a total of 54 737-800s by year-end, says Jordan.

The cabin retrofit on the -700s, the new -800s, and network optimisation will result in a 2% growth in available seat miles for 2013, says the airline's chief financial officer Tammy Romo.

Southwest expects revenue per available seat mile to grow 4% to 5% next year, while cost per available seat mile excluding fuel, profit sharing and sharing items is estimated to increase by about 1%, says Romo.

The carrier expects to see a reduction of $15 million to $20 million in operating profit for the fourth quarter of 2012 due to the impact from Hurricane Sandy which led to extensive flight cancellations in the northeast, she adds.