Southwest Air pilots approve bigger Boeing jet

By Reuters
Posted Dec. 1, 2010 at 2:40 p.m.

Southwest Airlines Co said its pilots approved changes to their labor agreement allowing the addition of a bigger-capacity Boeing Co 737 plane that will enable the carrier to transport more passengers as it expands.

The traditional low-fare airline, which is planning to buy rival AirTran Holdings Inc to bolster its presence in U.S. East Coast cities, said it would now move to finalize talks with Boeing on substitutions of 737-800 models for 737-700s. It added it expects delivery of its first 737-800 in the first quarter of 2012.

Southwest currently operates smaller-capacity models of the Boeing 737 narrowbody. Use of the bigger aircraft would allow it to transport more passengers in gate-restricted and high-growth markets.

The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association cleared changes to its collective bargaining accord with the carrier that extends the contract by one year, becoming amendable in August 2012. The airline said the ratified pact includes the potential for pay raises based on company financial performance.

Last month, flight attendants at the carrier represented by Transport Workers Union Local 556 approved changes to their labor accord paving the way for the larger plane.

Shares of Southwest were up 1.1 percent to $13.47 in afternoon trading.

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