HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Southwest Airlines finally ended years of speculation, promising low fares for its new service to Hawaii. The company made the official announcement to thousands of employees first during a gathering in Los Angeles.
The carrier intends to start ticket sales next year. As for when service will begin, that's still up in the air as the company secures FAA approval to operate between the mainland and Hawaii.
"On average, our fares will be lower than theirs or bring down the market price. That's called the 'Southwest Effect,'" said executive vice president Andrew Watterson. "Low costs come from very efficient operations. We pay our people well, but we work them hard and we work the airplanes hard. So that leads to lows costs so we have lower than our competitors so we'll be able to bring lower ticket prices."
Company officials plan to announce specific routes at a later date, but did reveal that they will begin on the West Coast, with the first flights from California. Inter-island flights are also a possibility.
Gov. David Ige and Southwest's president, Tom Nealon, joined the company's announcement via satellite from Waikiki.
"Southwest has a strong brand and a real committed customer base that they will bring to Hawaii. We're excited because it really means that they're making an investment that Hawaii is a good place to do business," said Ige.
The carrier doesn't charge a fee to change flights and allows up to two checked bags for free within the size and weight limits.
Portland visitor Jessica Wynn says she usually flies Southwest.
"They're cheaper, especially if you do the checked bags. I just like them. They are always friendly. Never had any problems," she said.
Southwest plans to use Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft which seat 175 passengers. Airline analyst Peter Forman doesn't believe the company has the cost structure to be able to permanently drive down prices.
"The bigger the airplanes, the lower the cost per seat mile, so the airlines such as Hawaiian and United who offer the bigger planes to and from Hawaii do have the cost advantage," said Forman.
Hawaiian Airlines issued this statement: "We are no stranger to competition. Hawaii is our home, and our superior product, authentic Hawaiian hospitality and leading punctuality offer travelers the best value when flying to and within our Hawaiian Islands."