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Details of the long-awaited launch of Southwest Airlines flights to Hawaii continue to trickle out. We’ve already known that the market-disrupting, low-cost carrier would launch service to four Hawaiian airports from the mainland US — Honolulu International Airport (HNL), Lihue Airport (LIH), Kona International Airport (KOA) and Kahului Airport (OGG). Now, we know that the airline will also launch flights between the Hawaiian islands.
Southwest Airlines confirmed to Pacific Business News that it plans to launch interisland service once its Hawaiian operations are underway. The carrier confirmed that its first focus will be launching routes between California and its Hawaiian destinations. However, it will eventually begin interisland service, offering travelers a way to get between the Hawaiian islands.
On Thursday, the carrier also told Skift’s Brian Sumers that it will start flying to Hawaii from the following Californian cities: Oakland (OAK), San Diego (SAN), San Jose (SJC) and Sacramento (SMF). The exact routing has yet to be announced.
While it seems Southwest certainly has plans in place, it still must get the necessary regulatory approval in order to launch the routes. Specifically, it still needs to get Extended-range Twin-engine Operational Performance Standards (ETOPs) certification, which could take a year or longer. The carrier still is not saying how many routes it will operate and what fares will look like, though Southwest President Tom Nealon said fares will be lower than those offered by competitors, alluding to the “Southwest Effect.”
“I can’t suggest what other airline’s pricing departments will do but our fares will be lower, and what we have seen is that does tend to bring the prices down within the market,” Nealon said. “Our intent is not to foster a fare war, but we will come in and operate like Southwest has historically and successfully operated.”
The carrier still plans to sell Hawaii tickets sometime in 2018, with service to officially launch sometime later in the year or early 2019. But, don’t expect interisland Hawaii service to start right away.
“We will start interisland service once we build up our network and have enough frequency to make it meaningful,” Nealon said. He continued by saying that if the carrier is able to launch interisland service by the end of next year, it would be “an awesome accomplishment.”
Southwest’s Hawaii service will launch with its 737-800s before switching to its newest 737 MAX. While we wait for more details on Southwest’s Hawaii operations, get caught up on the aircraft that it will soon be flying to Hawaii by reading this review of the 737 MAX 8.
Featured image by Marko Stavric Photography / Getty Images.
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