Boeing unveiled Tuesday a series of enhancements to its 737 single-aisle jet that should modestly boost fuel performance and significantly improve the passenger experience.

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Boeing unveiled Tuesday enhancements to its 737 single-aisle jet that should modestly boost fuel performance and significantly improve the passenger experience.

The good news for travelers on this workhorse of domestic flights is the new passenger cabin will have lots more room overhead: No more hunching under the luggage stow bins as you exit your seat or wait for other passengers to disembark.

The package of enhancements is designed to refresh the 737 brand now that Boeing has pushed out a replacement jet at least until late in the next decade.

The changes include improvements to the engine made by CFM, a joint venture between General Electric and Snecma of France.

But with this announcement, it appears Boeing has ruled out a major redesign of the airplane to enable it to fly with Pratt & Whitney’s all-new “geared turbofan” engine.

“We have a dynamite partnership with CFM,” said John Hamilton, chief engineer on the 737. “We’re going to stick with them.”

The new 737 cabin design, dubbed the “737 sky interior,” is modeled on the innovative 787 Dreamliner passenger cabin.

It includes blue mood lighting and brighter colors. And it replaces the shelflike stow bins with sharply curved pivoting bins of the type introduced on the 777 jet 15 years ago.

When opened for loading, they pivot down to about the same height as bins used today.

But when closed, they tuck high into the corner of the cabin and remove that low overhang that makes it impossible to stand fully upright even in the aisle seat.

The new 737 interior will roll out late next year. It will be standard on jets going to new customers, but optional on airlines already having 737s.

Some may choose to keep all their cabins looking alike, rather than switch.

Seven customers already

Airlines already signed up to get the new cabin are Continental Airlines in the U.S., FlyDubai of the United Arab Emirates, GOL of Brazil, Lion Air of Indonesia, Malaysia Airlines, Norwegian Air Shuttle and TUI Travel of London.

Fuel burn may matter more to airlines like European budget carrier Ryanair, a top 737 customer known for its commitment to low prices with minimal service and comfort.

Boeing is targeting a 2 percent reduction in fuel consumption by 2011, through a combination of airframe and engine improvements.

Structural improvements — refining the aerodynamic shape of the wheel well, the wing control surfaces, an exhaust outlet and even the red warning light on top of the fuselage — will reduce drag on the airplane.

On the engine, Boeing has designed a shorter exhaust nozzle and an elongated plug at the back to reduce drag.

The overall reduction in drag will reduce fuel consumption by about 1 percent.

CFM claims its improvements to the engine innards — taking out some of the blades and reshaping others to improve air flow — will provide the remaining 1 percent fuel-burn improvement and also reduce maintenance costs about 4 percent compared with the current engine.

The enhanced engine is expected to enter service in mid-2011.

Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or