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LotsaRunway
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What if WN Added Smaller Aircraft to their Fleet?

Tue Jun 27, 2017 5:17 pm

As most of us know, WN is phasing out their remaining 137 seat 737-300's while they add 737-800s, 737 Max8s, used 737-700s and eventually 737 Max7s. Quietly, the smallest aircraft in their fleet has gone from 122 seat 737-200s and -500s, to 137 seat -300s and 700s, to 143 seat -700s this fall. WN is rapidly adding 175 seat aircraft which bring the average aircraft size in the fleet upward. When the -700s are eventually retired, the smallest aircraft in the fleet will be the 150 seat Max-7, if nothing changes, and that subfleet is not expected to be large. Thus most of the future WN fleet could be centered around 175 seaters. System load factors have risen into upper 80 percent range, which means WN needs a whole lot more butts in seats of each flight than they used to.

There have been threads regarding where WN can send those larger and more capable aircraft and others where people have added their opinions on what types of smaller aircraft could be added to their fleet. For this thread, I ask two questions:
1. What will likely happen to their domestic network if WN does not order smaller aircraft and has a fleet average size of nearly 175 seats? and
2. If they order smaller aircraft, how would they likely be used?

I'm sure there are all kinds of related questions and issues to discuss. So have at it!

In my opinion, I'm not sure WN can maintain all their current cities if they move to all larger aircraft. They built their network on high frequency mainline service that just can not be done at 85% capacity loads on a 175 aircraft between most domestic cities like they could with 50-60% capacity on 122 seaters. Times are changing and the future is not necessarily the same as the past. But I think they leave too much of the national market on the table if they don't get some smaller aircraft to replace the -700s when the time comes. The 737 keeps getting bigger, leaving the smaller capacities behind. WN will have to venture beyond the 737 if they want to be able to grow into the next tier of mid-sized cities. Something in the 110-125 seat range is probably ideal
 
TheDBCooper
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Re: What if WN Added Smaller Aircraft to their Fleet?

Tue Jun 27, 2017 5:33 pm

Clearly, if Boeing hadn't been so shortsighted they could've, I dunno, sold them some 717s, or something.

Sarcasm aside, the global trend for airlines is increasing seat numbers. I think Southwest will do quite well with their current and planned fleet.
 
aaway
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Re: What if WN Added Smaller Aircraft to their Fleet?

Tue Jun 27, 2017 5:34 pm

I'm sure the many Southwest followers & insiders that lurk on this site will chime in....but, IIRC, circa 2006/07, WN was 'studying' the possible induction of regional-type aircraft in a bid to initiate service to mid / small market cities from DAL. That effort may have been driven partly to get more utility from a then Wright Amendment-restricted Love Field.

Considering the present business model - and a more direct response to your question - the post-AirTran merger has demonstrated (to a degree) WNs' commitment to the mid-tier domestic market.
"The greatest mistake you can make in life is to continually be afraid you will make one." - Elbert Hubbard
 
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tjwgrr
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Re: What if WN Added Smaller Aircraft to their Fleet?

Tue Jun 27, 2017 5:35 pm

Single class CS100 32" pitch 120 seats:

http://commercialaircraft.bombardier.co ... erior.html
Direct KNOBS, maintain 2700' until established on the localizer, cleared ILS runway 26 left approach.
 
Sooner787
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Re: What if WN Added Smaller Aircraft to their Fleet?

Tue Jun 27, 2017 5:37 pm

Either they order CS-100's and let their mainline pilots fly them
or go set up a "Southwest Express" operation and farm out
the smallest market flying.

Might be the only way smaller markets in texas like CRP, MAF, BRO and others
can keep WN service in the future.
 
Antarius
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Re: What if WN Added Smaller Aircraft to their Fleet?

Tue Jun 27, 2017 5:43 pm

What is the operating cost of a 737-700/800 vs a 300? Doing some cursory looks, an 800 doesn't burn that much more than a much older 300. Additionlly the maintenance costs are lower.

If the fixed costs are on the same order or magnitude, it shouldn't hurt WN to send a larger NG aircraft instead of their smaller classics.
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Spacepope
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Re: What if WN Added Smaller Aircraft to their Fleet?

Tue Jun 27, 2017 5:58 pm

TheDBCooper wrote:
Clearly, if Boeing hadn't been so shortsighted they could've, I dunno, sold them some 717s, or something.

Sarcasm aside, the global trend for airlines is increasing seat numbers. I think Southwest will do quite well with their current and planned fleet.
They could just take their 717 fleet back off leasr from DL...
The last of the famous international playboys
 
MIflyer12
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Re: What if WN Added Smaller Aircraft to their Fleet?

Tue Jun 27, 2017 6:22 pm

LotsaRunway wrote:
System load factors have risen into upper 80 percent range...


So they need a bunch of smaller jets? Yeh, I can follow the 'logic' of that.

If Southwest wants to have the domestic network density of AA/UA/DL it will need a lot of smaller planes but I don't see any signs of wanting that very much. Look at the airports they've added in the last 15 years. Look at the airports they've dropped (with AirTran) in the last five years.
 
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redzeppelin
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Re: What if WN Added Smaller Aircraft to their Fleet?

Tue Jun 27, 2017 6:22 pm

How Southwest might use a smaller aircraft is a very interesting question. The major legacies use smaller aircraft and RJ's to feed their hubs. This includes flights from small cities and high-frequency flights from large cities. I think that if WN had smaller planes, they would be used for a lot more connect-the-dot flying within their current network, including frequency increases in certain markets, and significantly less for opening smaller markets. A lot the remaining markets in the lower 48 would be difficult for WN to serve without committing to more of a banked hub-and-spoke network.
 
DesertAir
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Re: What if WN Added Smaller Aircraft to their Fleet?

Tue Jun 27, 2017 8:11 pm

WN could experiment with the Central Valley in California Market. Fly smaller aircraft into Chico, Stockton, Modesto, Fresno, Merced... to their larger operations. On the other hand, WN has been very successful with their model of flying into cities that can sustain a certain level of service.
 
MalevTU134
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Re: What if WN Added Smaller Aircraft to their Fleet?

Tue Jun 27, 2017 8:29 pm

WN would lose all of the simplicity and benefits of operating a single-type fleet. If you look at it, (almost) all successful LCCs (if you can call WN that) use a single aircraft type, at least for short-haul: Ryanair (and its sister companies worldwide), Wizzair, Norwegian, most of the Asian LCCs.
And while you are right on the average aircraft size going up, so does the size of the population of most of the cities they serve, as well as the average disposable income. And those bigger planes are not necessarily more expensive to operate than the smaller ones they parked. Take a 738 compared to a 732 for example. Those extra seats hang along more or less for free on the -800 compared to the -200.
 
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PatrickZ80
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Re: What if WN Added Smaller Aircraft to their Fleet?

Tue Jun 27, 2017 8:58 pm

Southwest doesn't need smaller aircraft as there's always an airport that can be served with a 737. As the 737 evolved over time operating costs went down as did the required runway length. The only thing that went up was the number of seats. But so what if they fly a half empty plane somewhere? They could put a smaller plane on that route, but why would they? The operating costs of a smaller plane are hardly less than that of a larger plane and the number of occupied seats (and therefor the total flight income) remains the same.

Here on the European side of the pond where I live we got similar situations too. One I can recall is the Wizzair Groningen - Gdansk route. So far Wizzair operated this route on an A320, but load factors aren't the best in the world. I've flown this route myself and when I did the plane was only filled for about two third or something like that. Plenty of empty seats. An A319 could do the job, except that Wizzair doesn't have A319s. The A320 is the smallest they got. Recently there was a press release that Wizzair will be upgrading this route to an A321. I can't imagine this is because of the demand and load factors as they aren't that great, but it just fits their schedule.
 
airzona11
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Re: What if WN Added Smaller Aircraft to their Fleet?

Tue Jun 27, 2017 8:59 pm

MalevTU134 wrote:
WN would lose all of the simplicity and benefits of operating a single-type fleet. If you look at it, (almost) all successful LCCs (if you can call WN that) use a single aircraft type, at least for short-haul: Ryanair (and its sister companies worldwide), Wizzair, Norwegian, most of the Asian LCCs.
And while you are right on the average aircraft size going up, so does the size of the population of most of the cities they serve, as well as the average disposable income. And those bigger planes are not necessarily more expensive to operate than the smaller ones they parked. Take a 738 compared to a 732 for example. Those extra seats hang along more or less for free on the -800 compared to the -200.


Exactly.

The other important factor, WN is the largest domestic US airline. The legacies are increasing their capacity to be able to better compete to larger stations. For years the smaller CRJs/ERJs etc were flying to not only secondary cities but also Hub to Primary cities and they got killed on CASM and operational costs.

WN will move more upmarket in the size of their jets to compete on the longer coast to coast segments. I would argue they have more growth potential that way vs operating smaller jets.
 
cheapgreek
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Re: What if WN Added Smaller Aircraft to their Fleet?

Tue Jun 27, 2017 9:35 pm

tjwgrr wrote:
Single class CS100 32" pitch 120 seats:

http://commercialaircraft.bombardier.co ... erior.html


Too close to the 737MAX-7. The MRJ-90 at 88 seats would be a good regional plane and I think Mitsubishi would offer a deal they could not refuse. No major in this country has ordered any MRJ's and the only carrier in the US is Skywest for 100 frames. The scope clause is hurting sales.
 
WaywardMemphian
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Re: What if WN Added Smaller Aircraft to their Fleet?

Wed Jun 28, 2017 7:28 pm

A smaller aircraft like the CS 100 would do well with expanding directs from cities like Memphis and Tulsa while offering a plane to develop new markets like XNA plus a plane to offer more seasonal destinations.

2016 May Numbers for Memphis were 9 daily scheduled flights for a total of 62,348 total passengers and 2017 came in at 11 daily scheduled flights at 73,774 total.

My flight from BWI to MEM last Sunday night was 100% full.
 
FlyPNS1
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Re: What if WN Added Smaller Aircraft to their Fleet?

Wed Jun 28, 2017 7:45 pm

Given WN's CASM and the likely costs of operating any 100 seater aircraft, the economics of a 100 seater simply don't make sense for WN. You'll notice none of the LCCs and/or ULCC's are banging down the door to buy up lots of new 100 seaters. There's a reason for that. The economics just don't work for most LCC or ULCC missions.
 
cheapgreek
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Re: What if WN Added Smaller Aircraft to their Fleet?

Wed Jun 28, 2017 7:55 pm

FlyPNS1 wrote:
Given WN's CASM and the likely costs of operating any 100 seater aircraft, the economics of a 100 seater simply don't make sense for WN. You'll notice none of the LCCs and/or ULCC's are banging down the door to buy up lots of new 100 seaters. There's a reason for that. The economics just don't work for most LCC or ULCC missions.


They could work if the 90-100 seaters were operated as a wholly owned regional carrier. Its worked for years with the majors and adding flow through for the pilots would add incentive for staying with the company.
 
msycajun
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Re: What if WN Added Smaller Aircraft to their Fleet?

Wed Jun 28, 2017 7:59 pm

I think the more important question is will they introduce codesharing to help fill the seats. WS, DE, MT seem like they'd work out well, especially with the ability to earn Rapid Rewards points on partner flights.
 
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kitplane01
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Re: What if WN Added Smaller Aircraft to their Fleet?

Thu Jun 29, 2017 4:35 am

cheapgreek wrote:
tjwgrr wrote:
Single class CS100 32" pitch 120 seats:

http://commercialaircraft.bombardier.co ... erior.html


Too close to the 737MAX-7. The MRJ-90 at 88 seats would be a good regional plane and I think Mitsubishi would offer a deal they could not refuse. No major in this country has ordered any MRJ's and the only carrier in the US is Skywest for 100 frames. The scope clause is hurting sales.


It might be a very long time before a new customer got actual delivery of a real MRJ.

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