Airline seat leather gets new life as shoes, purses, soccer balls

Would you wear a shoe that has already traveled hundreds of thousands of miles?

That’s not such an outrageous idea under a charitable program announced last week by Southwest Airlines.

The Dallas-based carrier launched “Project Luvseat,” in which 43 acres of leather from hundreds of old airline seats will be donated to charitable groups in Kenya to make soccer balls, purses and shoes.


The airline has lots of excess leather since it began two years ago to install new seats with thinner backrests covered in a lighter synthetic material. The new seats are part of a redesign to cut about 600 pounds from the weight of each cabin and fit about six more seats per plane.

Southwest has already sent two shipping containers full of leather to Kenya and has 14 more containers waiting in Dallas. Samples and test pieces have already been created and a paid training program began last week to show workers in Kenya how to turn the leather into products.

“With the amount of leather we have, we anticipate that this will be a long-term effort over the next couple of years,” said Southwest spokeswoman Marilee McInnis.

To read more about travel, tourism and the airline industry, follow me on Twitter at @hugomartin.