Southwest waits for Boeing’s move to re-engine or re-design the 737

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Southwest Airlines has underlined its allegiance to the Boeing 737 but has stressed its desire for a more fuel-efficient aircraft, as Boeing continues to consider whether to follow Airbus with a re-engining programme.

"We love the 737. We wish it would be more fuel efficient," said chief executive Gary Kelly during its 20 January earnings call. "At some point we will have a different airplane if Boeing comes forth with a new aircraft."

Kelly says he would prefer a more fuel efficient airplane from Boeing whether it would be via an interim step such as a re-engine programme or an all-new aircraft. "Boeing has told us and I think what I've read recently at least, is that they are looking for a decision on that mid-year," he states.

Southwest is also acknowledging that it will likely reverse its long-standing policy of only operating a single fleet type in the coming years. "At some point, we will likely have another fleet type. We think we can manage multiple fleet types - not 10, but two or three."

In the short term Southwest's fleet will expand to include the Boeing 717 once its acquisition of AirTran Airways closes.

In 2011, Southwest revised its delivery schedule to take three additional 737-700s this year for a total of 19, and 20 737-800s in 2012. The carrier also states it is evaluating substituting -800s in lieu of the 71 -700s scheduled for delivery from 2013 through 2016.

Southwest in December firmed plans to substitute 20 firm -700 orders for the -800 with deliveries beginning in 2012.