Budget maverick Southwest Airlines is setting its sights on one of the most coveted U.S. markets: California to Hawaii.
The carrier said it plans to start service to Honolulu sometime in 2018, although it did not mention specific dates or the U.S. cities it will be serving. Flights will be via 175-passenger Boeing 737 MAX aircraft – one of the newest models in the 737 family, which is the only type of plane in Southwest’s fleet. Most other airlines flying the route, such as Hawaiian and United, use widebody planes with multiple classes of service.
While for many years Southwest stuck to its tried-and-true formula of short flights and no frills, in recent years, the carrier has expanded its route map significantly, flying longer routes within the U.S. and to more destinations outside the U.S., including Mexico and Central America. The airline serves more than peanuts on flights of over a few hours, but it still does not offer full meals or give advance seat assignments.
In flying to Hawaii, the carrier will be delivering some of the longest flights in its network – nearly six hours nonstop. And the flights will be over water for most of the trip, which requires that twin-jets such as the 737 take on extra safety equipment. Southwest said it is applying to the FAA for the necessary approvals to operate the service.