Southwest Upgrades Airplanes With Green Materials

Southwest Airlines is introducing green materials in its new cabins as part of its Evolve initiative. 

The $60 million retrofit will be finished in 2013. Southwest says the changes will reduce fuel consumption, increase passenger comfort, and lead to greater revenues (the design allows for more seats) without raising prices.

  • Seats: New seats will be more durable and will reduce fuel consumption simply by being six pounds lighter. The aircraft will weith 635 pounds less, resulting in over $10 million in ongoing annual cost savings.
  • Seat Covers: E-leather will cover the seats – made from recycled leather, it’s a lightweight, scuff resistant alternative to traditional leather. Michigan-based Irvin Automotive makes the material, which Southwest says also cost much less.
  • Seat Frame: seat frames from Southwest’s fleet will be re-used, saving $50 million.
  • Carpet: The cabin’s interior carpet will be supplied by sustainability leader Interface (Nasdaq: IFSIA). Its carpet tiles eliminate the need to completely replace the carpet when smaller areas wear out. Interface manufacturers the carpet using a closed loop recycled process. 
  • Life Vest Pouches will be a pound lighter, as well as smaller, giving passengers more room for carry-on luggage under the seat. 
  • Wind Screen: This product in the bulkhead has a longer lifespan, reducing the labor costs and waste that result from frequent replacements or repairs.
  • Switching from Plastic to Aluminum: Seat arms, tray table latches and other accessories will now be aluminum, increasing recyclability and durability.  

The changes come as a result of Southwest’s Green Plane, which has been testing the materials since 2009.

Southwest led the airlines in Climate Counts’ scoring this year, which ranks companies on how much action they’re taking to address climate change. They also are ranked among the highest in the industry for recycling.   

Read Southwests corporate responsibility report: 

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