HOUSTON, Oct. 21 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Southwest Airlines, the world's largest airline by annual number of passengers, said on Wednesday it would test a "Green Plane" that could save more than 10 U.S. million dollars a year in fuel costs and reduce emissions.
The modified Boeing 737-700 has environmentally friendly products sprinkled throughout the cabin and elsewhere, ranging from the carpet to seat covers to life vest pouches, according to the company's web site.
The most interesting items to be tested include Interface FLOR carpet, which allows the replacement of individual pieces rather than the whole carpet and is 100 percent recyclable; twice as durable seat covers, lighter leather seats; and a lighter life vest pouch that provides more under-seat room.
"Southwest is committed to continuing to lead the industry in emissions reductions through fuel efficiency," said Gary Kelly, Southwest's chairman, president and CEO. "We are excited to test these forward-thinking products and expect these green products to not only help the environment, but also create a fuel and materials cost saving for Southwest."
Southwest spokeswoman Marilee McInnes said the Green Plane was an innovative idea that married efficiency, environmentally responsible products, customer comfort, and reduced waste and weight.
She said the new materials would be tested for six months to see how well they held up and how well customers responded but it was "hard to put a date" on when a decision would be made about applying eco-friendly materials on the rest of Southwest's fleet.
In addition to the Green Plane, Southwest also announced that, from Nov. 1, it would start a more robust onboard recycling program that would allow the airline to capture more recyclable material and divert it from the waste stream.
McInnes said the new materials on the Green Plane would save about five pounds per seat, or roughly 472 pounds per plane. That equated to 9,500 gallons of fuel per year a jet.
"If you estimate two dollars per gallon, which is conservative, that becomes 19,000 dollars per aircraft per year," McInnis said, suggesting the company's annual savings could be 10.3 million dollars.
Southwest Chairman Kelly said: "Efficiency in fuel consumption benefits our company as well as the environment, and this has been part of our business model since the beginning."
Southwest's successful business model also involves flying multiple short, quick trips in the secondary (more efficient and less costly) airports of major markets, and using one aircraft model, the Boeing 737. Presently, the Dallas-based Southwest has more than 540 Boeing 737 jets.
In August, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) praised Southwest for its purchase and support of Green Power energy as well as participation in the Agency's Fortune 500 Green Power Challenge. Southwest Airlines currently ranks No. 32 on the EPA's list.
The company's Dallas and Houston operations have purchased nearly 16 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of Green Power from Reliant Energy, one of the largest energy producers in Texas. The purchased power is enough to meet 30 percent of the facilities' purchased electricity demand.
Green Power is generated from environmentally preferable and renewable resources, such as wind, solar, geothermal, biogas, biomass and low-impact hydro with zero increase in carbon dioxide emissions.
EPA has urged Fortune 500 Corporations to collectively purchase more than 10 billion kilowatt-hours of Green Power by the end of 2009.
Southwest Airlines is one of the world's most profitable airlines, posting profits for 36 consecutive years until January 2009.
Operating approximately 3,500 flights daily, statistics released by U.S. Department of transportation show Southwest Airlines has carried more customers than any other U.S. airline since August 2006 for combined domestic and international passengers.
"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," said Kelly.