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Southwest dominated the travel news space last week with its announcement of Hawaii service. This is huge news for TPG readers especially — once Southwest begins flying to Hawaii, likely in 2018, Companion Pass holders will be able to score two tickets for the price of one, even when traveling on an award.

Southwest’s new Boeing 737 MAX fleet will also offer a far more modern — and, in some cases, comfortable — interior compared to the aircraft legacy carriers fly to and from the mainland today. For example, here’s what you might find on a Delta 757-200 from Los Angeles to Maui:

Legacy carriers typically fly their oldest planes to and from the mainland, such as this Delta 757-200.

And this is the seat and cabin you can expect on Southwest’s new 737 MAX:

Following the Hawaii announcement last week, the airline sent a memo and “questions and answers” document to employees, which airport agents, flight attendants and other representatives can reference when customers ask about Southwest’s Hawaii plans.

Many details have yet to be worked out, but so far we’ve learned:

  • Service will launch with the 737-800 to avoid further delays, but “the MAX will be [Southwest’s] Hawaii aircraft.”
  • California is clearly the top priority at launch, but specific airports remain to be announced.
  • With the Love Field expansion and international service launch out of the way, and with 737 MAX deliveries finally underway, Southwest decided it was time to announce Hawaii service.
  • Analysts are evaluating the feasibility of inter-island service, which is on the table as well.
  • Tickets should go on sale in 2018, but the launch is entirely dependent on ETOPS approval.
  • Free bags, Companion Pass, award redemptions and other perks will carry over to Hawaii service.
  • Southwest is working to bring Wi-Fi and live TV to Hawaii flights.
  • Once the MAX is ETOPS certified, it’s easier to add regional approval for transatlantic flights, but there are “no plans to serve Europe at this time.”

Beyond what we already knew, the biggest takeaways here are the fact that Southwest will begin service with the older 737-800, and will focus on California at launch. While other Western cities could eventually offer nonstop Southwest flights to Hawaii, we’ll likely see the first flights depart from the carrier’s existing California focus airports, perhaps including Los Angeles (LAX), Oakland (OAK), Orange County (SNA), San Diego (SAN), San Jose (SJC) and/or Sacramento (SMF).

Featured image by Adam-Springer/Getty Images.

Which airports would you like to see Southwest serve first?

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