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In the summer of 2016, Boeing’s 737 MAX was merely a fascination for aviation professionals and enthusiasts — this Wednesday, Southwest took the plane mainstream. Late last night, the carrier took Twitter by storm after it posted a simple graphic on the social platform:
That’s right! Come 2018, everyone’s favorite Companion Pass carrier will fly to Hawaii. It isn’t yet clear which routes Southwest will fly first, but several will surely originate in California, likely from airports with a significant Southwest presence, like San Diego (SAN), San Jose (SJC) and Santa Ana (SNA). Beyond The Golden State, Las Vegas (LAS) and Phoenix (PHX) are possible candidates. As for destinations in Hawaii, we’ll surely see Honolulu, while a Southwest executive suggested Kauai and the island of Hawaii as well.
What’s more clear is the aircraft variant Southwest will utilize here — it’ll almost certainly be the new Boeing 737 MAX 8. Southwest has a whopping 170 copies on order, along with 30 MAX 7s. The airline has begun flying the MAX 8 within North America — in fact, TPG’s Emily McNutt was on the very first flight, which traveled from Dallas Love Field (DAL) to Houston Hobby (HOU) on October 1.
While it can’t operate service until it receives Extended-range Twin-engine Operational Performance Standards (ETOPS) certification from the FAA, once Southwest completes that process the MAX 8 will have more than enough range to make it from the West Coast to Hawaii.
Boeing lists the variant’s range at more than 4,000 miles, and more than 4,400 miles for the MAX 7. Theoretically, that would enable nonstop flights from Dallas and Houston, though ETOPS and other requirements for reserve fuel place those cities a bit out of reach.
Emily found the 737 MAX’s seats to be pretty comfortable, but her trip from Dallas to Houston was only a few minutes long — it’s hard to say how comfy they’ll seem after a six-hour flight from the West Coast to Hawaii.
Another potential shocker for those new to Southwest is the lack of seat-back TVs — while there’s a full-size tray table and a literature compartment, each MAX seat is otherwise bare. Instead, Southwest offers free streaming live TV and on-demand TV and movies on your own device.
The carrier also offers paid Wi-Fi on many flights, and the MAX 8 will soon be powered by Panasonic’s next-generation modem, which is expected to deliver far better performance than we’re seeing today.
Boeing’s 737 MAX 8 is one of the most comfortable narrow-body planes flying today. It’s not equipped for long-haul travel, but even six-hour trips from the West Coast to Hawaii would be doable. I can’t wait to hear more about what Southwest has planned for our 50th state!
For more on Southwest’s new Boeing 737 MAX 8, see:
- A First Look Inside Southwest’s Boeing 737 MAX 8
- Flight Review: Southwest (737 MAX 8) Inaugural Flight From Dallas to Houston
- Which Hawaii Routes Will Southwest Launch?
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