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Southwest Airlines Announces Entry into the Hawaiian Market

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Written by: Douglas Wint
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Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly announced on Wednesday evening, the airline’s intention to apply for ETOPS certification of their Boeing 737-800 for service to Hawaii. Kelly said “A day long-awaited by our customers, fans, and more than 55,000 of the world’s most-loved airline employees is finally within sight—a day that will showcase your hospitality, about as far Southwest as you can go in the U.S. “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. We’re ready and excited to address a request we’ve heard for years.” Schedules and routes are yet to be released but service will begin from western hubs and focus cities to at least Honolulu and Maui. Tickets will go on sale sometime in 2018.

Many in the aviation industry have long-speculated when Southwest would serve the state of Hawaii. Speculation was amplified leading up to the introduction of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 into their fleet in October 2017. According to Boeing, the MAX 8 has a range of 4,045 miles. It also has improved fuel burn and lower operating costs over the previous 737 generation of aircraft. The MAX 8 can fly routes from Honolulu to as far as Phoenix, Denver, and into the midwest U.S. As more come online, they will be added on flights to Hawaii.

The Hawaii market has grown increasingly competitive in the last five years, especially from the western United States. United recently announced a significant increase in its service to destinations in Hawaii (Kona, Lihue, and Maui). Delta will soon begin flights to Lihue from Seattle-Tacoma, adding to its existing domestic and international network from Hawaii. Alaska/Virgin America, Hawaiian Airlines, and American Airlines all have an expansive Hawaiian presence. Southwest Airlines is entering a very saturated and competitive field.

That said, Southwest is the largest domestic carrier and has a very loyal customer base, especially in California and other parts of the inter-mountain west. Many travelers admire the airline for their competitive fares, customer service, and no-baggage fee policy. The airline now sees Hawaii as a viable market with the entry of the 737 MAX 8 into its fleet. Expectations will be high following government approval and the formal announcement of entry dates and service routes.

(Image above, from left to right: COO Mike Van de Ven, Managing Director of Culture Cheryl Hughey, Chairman & CEO Gary C. Kelly, Governor of Hawaii Hon. David Ige, and President Tom Nealon.)

About the Author

Douglas Wint
Doug Wint is an aviation enthusiast based in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.



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