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Southwest finds room for more seats

Jan. 19, 2012 at 2:53 PM

DALLAS, Jan. 19 (UPI) -- U.S. discount airline Southwest is adding lighter seats to its planes that will save money and, in hindsight, provide new revenue, an executive said.

The airline said an interior overhaul including seats 6 pounds lighter than the old seats for 372 Boeing 737-300 planes in its fleet and to AirTran's 737-700s and 717s will save $10 million a year in fuel costs, USA Today reported Thursday.

After choosing the new interiors for the $60 million project, Southwest then realized it could add six new seats to most of its planes, affording the airline "a lot of revenue opportunities," Chief Commercial Officer Bob Jordan said.

The seats, which are also thinner than Southwest's current seats, will not "sacrifice comfort," Jordan said. In essence, however, he said, the additional 2,232 new seats will be "like getting 16 new planes for free," Jordan said.

"To pick up that many seats, we would have to purchase 16 new aircraft, which is about $600 million," he said.

Jordan said, "To be clear, it was never our objective to add a row of seats, and the extra row isn't the main reason for this redesign.

"Once we examined how much space would be saved, it was determined we could accommodate the increase, without sacrificing comfort," he said.

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