Southwest Airlines is looking to expand its Boeing 737-300 fleet with secondhand acquisitions. This follows its conversion of more 737-700 options to firm orders.

The extra capacity is needed for the airline's planned launch of 50 more US domestic services in the third quarter of this year.

The Dallas-based low-fare operator has just taken delivery of two 737-300s bought from UK carrier easyJet Airline, to add to the 215 second-generation 737-300/500s in service. "We're reviewing the used aircraft market for additional aircraft this year," says Southwest.

The airline declines to reveal how many additional 737-300s it needs, but in line with past practice, says it plans to buy, rather than lease, the aircraft and intends to retain them in the long term. The aircraft are needed for more routes and frequencies scheduled for launch in June, July and August,

The 50 new services include non-stop return routes from Albuquerque to Seattle and Tucson; Kansas to San Diego, Indianapolis, Manchester and Tampa Bay; Las Vegas to Baltimore and Chicago; New Orleans to Fort Worth; and Los Angeles and Providence to Houston.

Southwest will also begin to fly on routes from Raleigh Durham to Baltimore, Chicago, Tampa Bay and Orlando from 6 June. Other additional services consist of extra frequencies into established destinations.

Tentative agreement has also been reached to convert six 737-700 options to orders for delivery in late 2000-1. This is in addition to six recently exercised -700 options for accelerated delivery next year. Southwest's 737-700 orders total stands at 142 aircraft, with 62 remaining options.

Southwest will have 57 Next Generation 737s in service by the end of this year, with 54 more due for delivery in 2000-1, 21 in 2002 and 10 aircraft in each of 2003 and 2004. As well as holding 13 options a year in 2003 and 2004 and 18 in 2005 and 2006, the carrier has rolling options on 46 aircraft between 2007 and 2009.

Source: Flight International