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Southwest Airlines unveils its Green Plane for testing lighter and more eco friendly interior materials
Southwest Airlines unveils its Green Plane for testing lighter and more eco friendly interior materials | Southwest Airlines

Cabin interior of Southwest Airlines' Green Plane (photo: SWA)
Fri 23 Oct 2009 – US low-cost carrier Southwest Airlines has rolled out a dedicated Boeing 737-700 ‘Green Plane’ that will be used to test new environmentally responsible cabin interior materials and passenger comfort products. All of the initiatives being tested, when combined, are expected to equate to weight savings of almost five pounds (2.27kg) per seat, says Southwest, thus saving fuel and emissions, along with adding recyclable elements to the cabin interior and reducing waste. In addition, the airline is about to start a more robust onboard recycling programme that will allow it to capture more recyclable material.
 
Initial products under test will focus on carpets and passenger seats. Carpets onboard aircraft, particularly in the aisles, are normally fully replaced as one single piece. The InterfaceFLOR 100% recyclable carpet can be installed in sections, returned to the manufacturer at the end of its service life and completely re-manufactured into new carpet in a carbon-neutral process.
 
Two new seat covers are to be tested on either side of the plane’s centre aisle that will offer more than twice the durability than the current leather seats as well as a weight saving of almost two pounds (900g) per seat.
 
On one side of the aisle, an eco-friendly, lightweight and scuff resistant man-made alternative to traditional leather cover, called e-Leather, has been installed. It is made from recycled materials that have been discarded by the leather industry, which has then been upgraded utilizing eco-friendly technology, resulting in composition leather, a man-made material.
 
On the other side is IZIT Leather, a new breed of premium leather alternative, a so-called evolutionary step beyond calf skin that offers a lightweight product that is both economical and durable, but with the touch and feel of genuine luxurious leather.
 
The foam in the back of the seats has been replaced with a lighter weight fill from Garnier PURtec that is also said to provide greater passenger comfort. The current metal containers holding the life vests have been replaced with a smaller, lighter durable canvas that also provides more room under the seat for carry-on items. Plastic passenger seat rub strips have been replaced by recyclable aluminium strips to add durability.

The total weight savings from the Green Plane will be around 472 pounds (214kg) per plane, saving about 9,500 gallons (36,000 litres) of fuel.
 
“Southwest is committed to continuing to lead the industry in emissions reductions through fuel efficiency. Efficiency in fuel consumption benefits our company as well as the environment, and this has been part of our business model since the beginning,” said Gary Kelly, Southwest’s Chairman, President, and CEO. “As we look to the future, we know climate change remains of vital importance to our industry, our company and our customers, so Southwest works hard every day in every area to be a responsible steward of the environment.”
 
From November 1, the airline is improving its onboard recycling programme that will allow it to capture more recyclable material and divert it from the waste stream. It follows an 18-month process involving all areas of the company in implementing the programme on the ground at Southwest’s Provisioning Bases and a reworking of waste collection procedures in the cabin.
 
“The initiative by the Southwest Airlines Green Team, Facilities Maintenance, Inflight Department and Provisioning Department was a truly heroic effort; when you serve nearly 68 cities there are often 68 different ways to implement a programme,” said Kelly. “We appreciate the hard work of our recycling vendor, Republic Services, and we are excited to take a very effective recycling programme and make it even better.”
 
Southwest consumed over 1.5 billion gallons of fuel last year.
 
 
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