“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,” says Chairman & CEO Gary Kelly. “We’re ready and excited to address a request we’ve heard for years.”
The announcement comes after Southwest became the first airline in North America to launch service using the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft. This type of plane will enable the carrier to operate longer flights.
The next step is to obtain approval from the Federal Aviation Administration for Extended Operations (ETOPS), a regulatory requirement to operate between the mainland and the Hawaiian Islands. An exact launch date was not announced.
Southwest President Tom Nealon says the combination of the airline’s customer service and low fare will be a game-changer in the U.S.-to-Hawaii market.
He’s right: not only can travelers can save even more by booking during one of Southwest’s many fare sales, the airline’s generous baggage policy allows two free checked bags per passenger. Plus, announcement is good news for consumers, as the additional competition could result in lower fares across all routes to Hawaii.
If you can’t wait to until 2018 for some beach time, Southwest also flies to the Caribbean. New service to Turks and Caicos is scheduled to begin November 5, 2017.