Southwest Eyes Hawaii Flights

A new Southwest Airlines 737-8MAX

A new Southwest Airlines 737-8MAX

Travelers have wanted Southwest to offer flights to Hawaii for years, and Kelly said it's one of the top questions from employees.

"We're thrilled to bring Hawaii next year as an option to more than 115 million customers who already fly with us annually", said Mike Van de Ven, Soutwest's chief operating officer.

Southwest this month became the first North American airline to fly the new model.

Southwest's announcement comes just days after it debuted the Boeing 737 MAX 8, which the carrier will likely use to operate flights to the Hawaiian islands.

The airline announced Wednesday that it plans to begin selling tickets to the Pacific paradise in 2018.

The Dallas-based low-priced carrier expects to begin selling tickets for travel to Hawaii in 2018 and plans to launch an application process for Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) authorization for Extended Operations (ETOPS) to operate regular flights between the mainland USA and Hawaii.

Southwest flights to Hawaii may not launch until 2019 because the airline still has to get approval from the Federal Aviation Administration, outfit aircraft with additional equipment and provide special training for crews, according to the Dallas News.

American, United, Delta, Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines all offer service to and from Hawaii, and analysts will be watching to see if Southwest's entry has any effect on prices.

The airline does not specify routes, but Kelly says nonstop Hawaii service will begin from California.

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. Southwest is now operating nine MAX 8s and expects to have 14 in service by the end of the year.

The Hawaii routes will be serviced most likely by the airline's new planes.

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