Work / Southwest Airlines

Capturing Southwest Airlines' passenger's hearts through aircraft interior design

Southwest is one of the United States major American airlines with a proud history operating a low-cost carrier model. The Dallas, Texas-based airline stands apart from the competition with customer-friendly policies and industry-leading flexibility, coupled with the one-of-a-kind hospitality offered by its employees. tangerine was tasked with creating a new cabin interior design that would be distinctive in the competitive US domestic and transcontinental markets, while also communicating Southwest’s legendary brand in a way that would bring its customer’s comfort.


  • Vision Setting & Creative Direction
  • Customer research and user/stakeholder trials
  • Cabin Interior design
  • CMF Design


tangerine won a competitive international pitch process, in which it presented a range of design options to the Southwest team illustrating how the airline could build on its heritage and communicate its maverick spirit in the refresh of its cabin interior.

To kick off the design development phase and to help set the creative vision, four members of tangerine’s London studio travelled to Southwest’s HQ in Dallas. Their mission was to meet with the business stakeholders and customers to find out what they love and value from the Southwest brand.

“We needed to help Southwest stand out amongst other US carriers”, said Matt Round, tangerine’s Chief Creative Officer. “Our proposal expressed the unmistakable energy of the airline and gave the cabin interior environment more heart”.

During the two-week immersion trip we spoke with employees from across the business: from marketing and customer experience, communications, inflight crew, engineering, sustainability, and much more, including the CEO. These conversations instilled the design team with valuable insights into how the cabin interior design could contribute to the success of the business and help achieve Southwest’s goal of ‘being the most loved, most efficient and most profitable airline’.


We held a series of workshops and one-on-one interviews with existing and prospective Southwest customers. Research themes covered passengers’ perceptions of colour, aspects of comfort, and their aspirations for the onboard experience. The key priorities of Southwest’s passengers were identified as a space to feel calm and cosy, while also having a sense of energy. These insights shaped how tangerine would respond through its creative process.

To test the developing design concepts, Southwest and tangerine took a rigorous approach including customer workshops, quantitative research, 2D and 3D mock-ups, and collaborative reviews with their leadership to understand the relative strengths and weaknesses of each concept.

The chosen design route was based on a concept that brings a calming sense of nature into the cabin with a look and feel that is distinctly Southwest. In bringing the design to life, we worked closely with Southwest’s supply chain and technical operations teams to conduct many rounds of physical sampling, including pattern, colour, and material to ensure the right tonality was achieved in the cabin while maintaining a reliable operation in service. Details of the cabin feature RECARO economy seats in a pattern evocative of rays of sunlight falling on surfaces linking back to Customer feedback of connecting to nature to bring a sense of calmness.



At the start of 2024 Southwest Airlines announced its all-new interior designed to respond to the priorities of Southwest’s customers present and future, following the iterative design process that included the passengers.

Southwest brand colours are communicated throughout the cabin in deep blue tones, with a newly introduced sky-blue accent. The airline’s instantly recognisable Southwest heart is debossed on headrests and subtly emerges from the carpet’s fluid woven pattern.

Over the 18-month programme, tangerine found the soul of Southwest. By understanding both its business objectives and the special place that the brand holds in its customers’ minds, the design was confirmed to be the right fit for Southwest and its passengers.

“By working closely with Southwest and all suppliers involved, we were able to ensure the design intent was executed in the cabin to the highest possible quality. The stunning result is a testament to what can be achieved through a collaborative spirit from all those involved”, reflects Round.

Southwest will introduce the Boeing 737 cabin design in early 2025.