Southwest Airlines will see "significant" savings and improved aircraft utilisation from adopting a new maintenance programme for its next-generation Boeing 737s, says Barry Lott, senior manager, maintenance programmes and reliability.

The programme, called EPIC, will allow the Dallas-based carrier to perform certain maintenance tasks via overnight line checks instead of during a longer hangar visit. The carrier says it will meet to discuss the programme with Boeing next week.

By performing the most frequent maintenance requirements in this environment, the carrier will see higher yields from each maintenance task, says Lott.

"We know an aircraft will routinely be at a station that can provide line maintenance support at a frequency much more often than it will be at a station that can provide enough resources to perform a complete maintenance check," says Lott. "We use these frequent stop stations to accomplish a number of tasks, reducing the overall requirement needed to perform a complete check."

Southwest will apply the programme to its 401 737-700s and 47 737-800s over the next two years, says Lott. The carrier will finish transitioning its -800 series aircraft to the new programme by the end of the year, and will do the same for the -700s in 2015.

The level of overall maintenance tasks needed for Southwest's fleet will not decrease under the new programme, says Lott. However, the size of some some intermediate maintenance check packages will be reduced, therefore cutting down on the risk of an aircraft leaving the check late.

"While this does not reflect the industry approach to large A and C check packages that require dedicated crews and maintenance locations, it does allow us to better utilise our resources based on the unique Southwest Airlines routines and opportunities," says Lott.

Source: Cirium Dashboard