Southwest Airlines is "happy to fly" the fleet of Boeing 717s that are operated by its AirTran subsidiary, but is planning its future fleet needs around the Boeing 737.

Chief executive officer Gary Kelly said yesterday that "we don't see a reason to keep the 717s longer than we have to, or find a unique replacement for the 717 that is anything other than the 737".

Kelly noted that Southwest has 717 lease commitments through 2024. According to a Southwest filing made with US regulators today, 88 717s are in the carrier's fleet, 80 of which are leased.

"We have broad discussions underway with Boeing on a number of issues, and at this point we don't see a reason why we would want to have a different aircraft other than the 737," he added.

Boeing Capital Corporation is a major lessor of 717s to AirTran, according to Flightglobal's ACAS database. According to a Boeing Capital filing with US regulators, AirTran represented 21% of its revenue for the first half of 2011.

When Southwest's acquisition of AirTran was originally announced last September, Kelly said Southwest was "pleased to have the 717" and that the aircraft could be utilised to serve smaller markets. Kelly also mentioned that the aircraft was "very cost effective".

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news