Southwest gets rid of blankets, pillows

June 15, 2009 3:33:32 AM PDT
The swine flu prompted Southwest Airlines to do major spring cleaning.

The discount carrier, which has offered free pillows and blankets to its passengers, threw away every shred of linen on its 539 jets on April 29.

"We recently removed blankets and pillows from the aircraft in the last month or so, when the concerns about the swine flu came up," said Southwest spokesman Chris Mainz at the airline's Dallas headquarters.

"We took them out thinking we would replace them."

Board a Southwest flight anytime soon, and you will see that the thinking changed.

"We find that customers are enjoying the extra overhead bin space, and there are not a lot of requests for blankets in the hot summer months," Mainz said.

Also, Southwest's accountants are enjoying extra cash on the balance sheet.

The savings partly come from quicker cleanups of cabins that allow for faster turnarounds between flights.

Plus, linens add weight to the aircraft.

Their removal lightens planes' loads, which translates into slightly increased fuel efficiencies.

Spread out over the entire fleet, those incremental fuel savings add up, Mainz said.

There's also the avoidance of the large lump sum purchase of all new blankets and pillows, instead of the gradual replacement process that most airlines use to weed out torn and worn coverings.

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