Chairman and CEO Gary Kelly said the destination is a request the company has received for years.
Southwest Chief Revenue Officer Andrew Watterson, who worked for Hawaiian Airlines as vice president of planning and revenue management from 2011-2013, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that the company was purposely ambiguous about when flights would begin to and from Hawaii because that will depend on when ETOPS authorization is received.
Southwest's announcement comes just days after it debuted the Boeing 737 MAX 8, which the carrier will likely use to operate flights to the Hawaiian islands.
Southwest President Tom Nealon said the airline's new service will be "a game-changer in the USA -to-Hawaii market during an announcement from Honolulu's Waikiki Beach". Add Southwest to your list of potential airliners as they'll begin selling tickets in 2018.
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Southwest flights to Hawaii may not launch until 2019 because the airline still has to get approval from the Federal Aviation Administration, outfit aircraft with additional equipment and provide special training for crews, according to the Dallas News. It did say it hoped to have non-stop service from California.
The airline does not specify routes, but Kelly says nonstop Hawaii service will begin from California.
"Hawaii is an important place for Southwest Airlines because so many people count on us to take them everywhere they want to go reliably and affordably".
But Watterson refuted the notion that Southwest won't be able to offer lower fares.
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"We anticipate fares will drop", he said. The planes are more fuel efficient and can fly longer distances than older models.
Looking ahead for a tropical vacation in Hawaii?
The Company's aircraft and available seat miles plans for 2018 are unchanged with today's announcement.
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