Southwest Airlines announced service to Hawaii this evening at their company ‘Spirit Party’. Service will begin in 2018. The airline also announced its intention to launch an application process for Federal Aviation Administration authorization for Extended Operations (ETOPS). Service details will be announced at a later date.
The ‘Spirit Party’ is a company-wide celebration of what makes the airline unique. This year, Southwest rented out Universal Studios in Hollywood for the evening. At the party, a large screen said, “Be here at eight sharp for big news.” CEO Gary Kelly made the announcement at 8pm PT sharp.
“A day long-awaited by our Customers, fans, and more than 55,000 of the world’s most-loved airline Employees is finally within sight–a day that will showcase your Hospitality, about as far Southwest as you can go in the U.S.,” Chairman & CEO Gary Kelly told thousands of Southwest Employees at a Company gathering in Southern California. “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. We’re ready and excited to address a request we’ve heard for years.”
The move to Hawaii is long expected, and some would even say overdue. Southwest has actually served Hawaii before through a codeshare with ATA or American Trans Air. Back in 2006, Southwest held a code-share agreement with the now-defunct airline. Southwest flew passengers to Oakland and Ontario while ATA flew passengers to Hawaii with their 737-800 fleet. The service was very popular for Rapid Rewards members but it was cancelled in 2007 as ATA wound down operations and declared bankruptcy. While Southwest acquired the assets of ATA, they did not introduce service to Hawaii.
Rumors of Southwest flying to Hawaii have been swirling for years. They peaked last month when Southwest sponsored a major Hawaii travel conference in Honolulu. Southwest didn’t announce anything at the time. Some blamed the hurricanes impacting other Southwest stations like San Juan and Houston for the delay.
The news comes as Southwest recently introduced the Boeing 737-8 MAX. The new version of the 737 is more fuel efficient and has a longer range than the existing 737-700s and -800s. The new -8MAX seats 175 people with Wifi, adjustable headrests, and even slightly wider seats. Service is expected to begin using the 737-800 first. However, the -8MAX will become the primary aircraft for flights to Hawaii once the aircraft is ETOPs certified by the FAA.
This is a breaking news story. We will update you with additional information as soon as possible.