Southwest Airlines CEO Discusses the Possibility of Airplane Cabin Change to Save Cost

Southwest Airlines Logo (Credits: Southwest Airlines)

Southwest Airlines CEO Bob Jordan revealed in a Thursday interview that the airline is bringing potential modifications to its longstanding single-class, open-seating model as part of efforts to boost revenue. This suggests a significant departure from the airline’s traditional approach.

Jordan disclosed, “We’re looking into new initiatives, things like the way we seat and board our aircraft,” following the airline’s underwhelming first-quarter performance.

Known for its single economy class cabin and absence of seating assignments across its all-Boeing 737 fleet, Southwest has historically prioritized simplicity and user-friendliness, aiming to minimize both internal costs and operational complexities.

Southwest Airlines (Credits: Stephan M Keller – Courtesy of Southwest Airlines)

In contrast, competitors such as Delta and United have reported substantial revenue growth from premium seating options like business class, alongside robust upsell rates.

Analysts have repeatedly probed Southwest about potential avenues for premium seating or additional fees, given that most U.S. airlines charge passengers for advanced seat selection, including those without extra legroom.

According to Jay Sorensen, an expert in airline ancillary revenue at IdeaWorksCompany, eight U.S. carriers collectively generated $4.2 billion from seating fees within their domestic networks in 2022.

Southwest Airlines (Credits: Boeing)

While Southwest has yet to finalize any decisions regarding potential changes, Jordan noted that studies have yielded “interesting” insights, acknowledging the evolving nature of customer preferences over time.

During Southwest’s recent earnings call, when queried about the possibility of implementing separate cabin configurations, Ryan Green, the carrier’s chief commercial officer, dismissed the notion of curtains or similar partitions, stating, “Curtains and things like that are a bit far afield from what Southwest Airlines is.”

Moreover, Green emphasized that the airline has no intention of introducing charges for checked bags, asserting that Southwest’s appeal lies in its baggage fee-free policy, a distinguishing feature appreciated by passengers.

Nate O'Hara
Nathan is a seasoned commerce writer with a passion for unraveling the intricacies of the business world and distilling them into engaging narratives. During his academic journey, he delved deep into subjects like economics, marketing, and entrepreneurship, honing his analytical skills and developing a keen understanding of market dynamics.