Southwest Announces Nonstop Flights From the Continental US to Hawaii

Oct 12, 2017

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Southwest is making its first foray into Hawaii. The low-cost carrier, which until this point has served only the continental US, Central America and the Caribbean, is poised to launch its first service to Hawaii.

Southwest announced on Twitter on Wednesday night that it’s launching flights to Hawaii:

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Southwest broke the news on its Twitter page with a response to a passenger. At this point, there aren’t any other details known — routes, fares and more. We do, however, know that Southwest will begin selling tickets sometime in 2018 pending government approval:

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Southwest CEO Gary Kelly posted on the company’s community website. In part, his statement reads:

“I just shared with our Employees at our Spirit Party at Universal Studios: we’re going to Hawaii, baby! That’s right—the day is finally here that we can say we’re going to add some Aloha to our world-famous Hospitality, as Southwest Airlines will soon serve the Hawaiian Islands!

We intend to begin selling tickets in 2018, and while we’re not quite ready to offer our Customers specific schedule or market information, tonight’s announcement is going to be big news within the industry. Those Southwest shockwaves of our terrific value and bar-setting Customer Service will be a game-changing addition in the U.S. transpacific market.

You may have heard us purposefully changing our language ahead of tonight’s announcement to say it’s a matter of when, and not if we serve Hawaii. Why now? We need to take our Extended Operations (ETOPS) work to the next level and gain FAA certification of ETOPS-equipped aircraft in our fleet and establish required operational processes to offer our Customers nonstop service they expect from California to one of the world’s top leisure destinations. The MAX will be our Hawaii aircraft but, we’ll start with our ETOPS-equipped -800 fleet to accelerate our service launch date. The rest of the work is lined up to bring the performance enhancements of the MAX to what we intend to build into a multi-market offering among our west coast cities and the Hawaiian Islands.”

The new routes to Hawaii make sense for a couple reasons. Southwest took delivery of its first Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft in late August, which gives it more flexibility for longer routes thanks to its long range. The aircraft entered service on October 1, 2017, with its first revenue flight between the airline’s base at Dallas Love Field (DAL) and Houston Hobby (HOU). In addition, Southwest recently agreed to a new contract with its pilots and flight attendants, allowing for the possibility of red-eye flights.

A couple of weeks ago, while Southwest was a major corporate sponsor at the Global Tourism Summit at the Hawaii Convention Center, rumors began swirling that the carrier would soon be announcing the launch of Hawaii flights. In addition, several people traveling through LAX and other West Coast airports noticed luau and leis scattered around Southwest gates, indicating a probable announcement.

In the past, Southwest’s CEO Gary Kelly said that it wasn’t a matter of if, but when the carrier would launch Hawaii routes. Now, those are official. Keep in mind also that Southwest’s Rapid Rewards program is a revenue-based system. Meaning, rather than offering an award chart, the carrier prices its awards based on the going cash rate. The cheaper the fare, the fewer Rapid Rewards points you’ll need.

Generally speaking, this is good news for flyers — no matter which carrier you frequently fly. After Southwest, known for its low fares and generous customer service practices, enters a market, other carriers have generally lowered fares in order to compete — similar to JetBlue’s Mint Effect on transcon routes. Currently, United, Delta, American, Hawaiian, Alaska, Virgin America, and Mokulele Airlines are the current nonstop options from the US mainland.

Update: This post was updated at 11:45pm ET to add in more details from Southwest CEO Gary Kelly.

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