When it comes to Southwest’s fleet, it looks like AirTran’s 717s won’t be staying around. On Monday, August 29, 2011, Southwest’s CEO Gary Kelly said, “[The 717] ‘is not different enough or unique enough that it really brings any advantage beyond what a 737 would do.’” The Dallas Morning News quoted Kelly at an aviation conference inAlbuquerque, “It’s a good airplane, but not one that I see we have to maintain for the next 20 years.”
When Southwest first announced plans to acquire AirTran last year, the company had indicated it would be open to keeping the 717s and using them to serve smaller markets. AirTran’s 717s seat 117 passengers, less than any of the 737 models in Southwest’s fleet.
The Morning News writes: “Kelly noted that Southwest didn’t see a need for anything smaller than its 137-seat Boeing 737-700s before deciding in 2010 to buy AirTran. Southwest operates 25 Boeing 737-500s, which has 122 seats, but hasn’t bought any that size in two decades.”
FlightGlobal.com says the 717 leases begin to expire between 2017 and 2024, adding that Southwest “is in discussions” with Boeing about the leases.
Well I guess that answers the question if we would be seeing Boeing 717s in the Southwest paint scheme.