Southwest Airlines (WN, Dallas Love Field) is set to break its commitment of not operating overnight "red-eye" flights, the carrier confirmed to ch-aviation, and will run around 50 such flights per day.

“We’ve previously shared plans to start overnight flying as we look to increase revenue while providing additional service to our customers,” Southwest Airlines said in an emailed statement, confirming details that Ryan Green, the airline’s chief commercial officer, gave in an interview to The Seattle Times.

However, before any of these red-eye flights can begin, “there’s a wide range of work that needs to be completed, which is anticipated to take place over the next few years,” it added.

In an interview with ch-aviation last year, Chief Operating Officer Andrew Watterson said its customer base has evolved, and now more passengers are wanting to fly on the last flight of the day rather than wait until the next.

Green told the Seattle newspaper that the Texan LCC will have to be hyper-efficient to be able to grow its daily number of operations without adding to its cost structure.

The ch-aviation schedules module shows that Southwest Airlines currently offers nearly 30,000 weekly flights.

Union preparing for a merger

In a separate report, Southwest’s pilot union (SWAPA) is preparing measures in case the company opts to acquire another airline as it copes with its latest growth-plan setbacks due to continued B737-7 certification delays. The carrier recently reduced its expected B737 MAX deliveries for 2024.

Casey Murray, president of SWAPA, reportedly told union members in a March 16 letter that Boeing's delays in certifying the MAX 7 had left the carrier overly reliant on the larger B737-8, which has created overcapacity in many markets for the low-cost carrier. Without the possibility of adding B737-7s for the time being, if ever, Southwest may be tempted to look into buying a competitor instead, he suggested.

“Last month, SWAPA made the decision to retain several law firms if Southwest attempts to acquire another carrier. To be clear, neither I nor anyone at SWAPA have any knowledge of an acquisition or merger in Southwest Airlines’ future. In fact, I hope a merger and/or acquisition never comes to pass.”

During the airline’s 2023 fourth-quarter investors call, CEO Bob Jordan said it was impossible to speculate on what might happen, but given Southwest’s history, when opportunities arise, “if they make sense, we take a look at that. But I wouldn’t want to speculate on anything going on in the industry, certainly around any other carrier.”

Southwest declined to comment on the matter.