Southwest Airlines’ Project LUVSeat

This post is a part of our People’s Insights monthly brief for November, called “Disrupt, or be Disrupted.”

Southwest Airlines left no stone unturned with Project LUVSeat, a great example of achieving the triple bottom-line – performance, planet and people.

It began with Evolve – an eco-redesign to Southwest’s entire fleet of Boeing 737-700 and some 737-300 aircrafts. The airline had sourced an upcycled eleather material to use for its seat coverings that would make each plane lighter by over 600 pounds. The eleather was made of scraps of leather and was cheaper and faster to produce than regular leather. The lighter seats meant less fuel consumption and savings of $10 million annually in fuel costs.

The redesign also made space for another row of seats in the planes, giving Southwest additional revenue per flight.

Southwest was then left with 80,000 used leather seats – 43 acres of leather – that it wanted to keep out of the landfills. The airlines embarked on a one year search for opportunities to maximize the use of the leather. Members of the Southwest community (employees and customers) were invited to share their ideas and happily complied in over 1,000 comments.

View the full infographic

Upcycling – converting waste material into something of higher quality or value

Some of the leather was donated to NGO-run workshops in Kenya where it was transformed into useful products and passed on to other NGOs.

Some was upcycled in the U.S. by Looptworks – a company that employs the disabled and converts used materials into premium handmade products.

Looptworks estimates that the upcycling of leather helped them conserve “more than 4,000 gallons of water conserved per bag and [achieve] a 72% reduction in CO2 emissions.”

Limited edition LUV Project products include: a convertible tote, duffle bag, backpack and toiletry case, by Looptworks

Kenya: 6,000 seats for a pilot program

In Kenya, Southwest gave the used leather to local NGOs and companies Massai Treads, Life Beads Kenya and Teamlift Inc. that train young adults, women and disabled persons in handicrafts. Using the leather, they produced 2,100 pairs of shoes, 1,000 soccer balls, 15,000 bags, wallets and backpacks, and other leather goods.

View the full infographic

The goodwill didn’t end there. Some of the shoes were donated to SOS Children’s Villages in Kenya as part of an anti-jigger campaign – to protect children who normally go barefoot and are susceptible to parasites. Shoes were also donated to Cure orphanage, a residence for children who lost parents to AIDS.

The soccer balls were donated to Alice & Kicking which uses sports to educate children about HIV/AIDS and Malaria prevention.

Performance, Planet, People

Overall, LUVSeat resulted in:

  • $10 million in annual fuel savings. Extra seats for sale.
  • Re-use of waste materials. Water conservation. Reduction in emissions.
  • Employment for the disabled. Training for the poor.
  • Health and education for Kenyan children.
  • And, meaningful stories to share with employees and customers, reinforcing that they are part of a *good* ecosystem when they fly Southwest.

Watch the video: Project LUV Seat: Repurpose with Purpose


Disrupt, or Be Disrupted – People’s Insights from MSLGROUP

Nidhi Chimnani

Nidhi Chimnani

Nidhi is Director of Research and Insights at MSLGROUP. She tracks digital consumer trends for People’s Insights and is community manager of MSLGROUP’s insights community SPRINT. Tweet her at @nidhichimnani

6 Responses to “Southwest Airlines’ Project LUVSeat”

  1. @TweetCMF

    Nice write-up of Southwest Airlines’ Project LUVSeat w/ @sos_children via @PeoplesLab

  2. @SOSChildrenUSA

    RT @TweetCMF: Nice write-up of Southwest Airlines’ Project LUVSeat w/ @sos_children via @PeoplesLab

  3. @FrancesGrace1

    RT @TweetCMF: Nice write-up of Southwest Airlines’ Project LUVSeat w/ @sos_children via @PeoplesLab

  4. MSLGROUP Peoples Lab (@PeoplesLab)

    RT @TweetCMF: Nice write-up of Southwest Airlines’ Project LUVSeat w/ @sos_children via @PeoplesLab

  5. @SpursOfficialES

    RT @sos_children: RT @TweetCMF: Nice write-up of Southwest Airlines’ Project LUVSeat w/ @sos_children via @PeoplesLab


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