Thursday, January 20, 2011

Plans for the Boeing 737

According to an article in business week Boeing is planning on changing the design of their 737, which is famously the only plane that Southwest Airlines operates. The 737 is also famous for being very simple to maintain and fly. The change in design hasn't been officially announced, but Boeing has stated that they will be improving the fuel economy of the plane, perhaps at the cost of simplicity of maintenance and operation. The improvement in fuel economy will hopefully enable the airline to cut prices and operate more efficiently. But the added complexity could create a scarcity of pilots capable of flying the plane. If the scarcity of pilots increases and the demand stays the same the price of a ticket would increase. The same goes for complex maintenance. Just like the scarcity of pilots increases so would the scarcity of mechanics. Mechanics would demand higher wages if the skill required to maintain the planes increases. All of which translates to less efficiency for the first year or so after the switch. Changing to a more fuel conscious jet would pay off in the long run because after a while the training will become standard and will be expected in pilots and mechanics. Because the initial cost will lessen over time the choice to change to a more fuel efficient plane is more profitable than the next best thing which is to keep using the same plane.

4 comments:

Easton said...

Will other airlines follow Southwest if the fuel economy does in fact pay off in the long run? How can American Airlines or other airlines compete if Southwest continues to drop their prices? What does this mean for the future of air travel?

Cara Sheffer said...

Some could make the argument that Southwest Airlines is becoming the top in air travel because of their "bags fly free" bid. Now that they are attempting a more fuel efficient air plane, do you think that will send them over the top? This could potentially cut out a lot of the competition in air travel, but it could also make a down turn because of everything that has to go into make that big of a switch and the demand for new training and maitenance.

Matthew said...

I am going to disagree with one comment, I am unsure of how changing the fuel economy will effect the pilots. Also I would say the change to the more efficient planes will not cause ticket drop now, in order for the overhaul millions must be spent and until these costs are covered the tickets will not drop. It could also cost more then just parts because you would have to retrain your mechanic crews. With the new systems they will have to be taught how to repair and install them without subjecting the plane to danger. Lastly I do agree with your closing statement to a point. All existing planes should be kept the same and the ones they are still making should be modified. By doing this you are not modifying an aging airframe yet just constructing a new plane.

Alison said...

Since there is such a push for environmental friendliness right now, I think people would be really excited about a fuel efficient plane. That might increase the number of consumers flying on it, increasing Southwest's profit from tickets. That might make up for some of the loss in profit from the switch.