Southwest could launch Hawaii flights by Christmas
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Southwest Airlines said it could begin flying to Hawaii as early as December.
During a conference call with analysts and reporters, CEO Gary Kelly said the company's planning for the much-anticipated route is well underway. He said the actual timetable depends on approvals from the Federal Aviation Administration.
Kelly said the company is committed to the local market for the long haul.
"In the grand scheme of things, whether we're flying at the end of this year or the next year, it won't matter over the next generation," he said.
Faced with soaring West Coast and interisland fares, many Hawaii consumers hope Southwest's entry will trigger a fare war with legacy carriers like Hawaiian and United Airlines.
Known for its low operating costs, Southwest competes by passing on some of those cost savings to passengers by lowering ticket prices.
"It is a cost advantage that translates into a fare advantage and we generate a dramatic amount of customers," Kelly said.
But airline industry experts don't think prices will drop that much since Southwest's planes are less-fuel efficient than their competitors'.
"They don't have a cost advantage over Hawaiian or other competitors," said local aviation industry historian Peter Forman.
"They'll have a niche, they'll do okay but they're certainly not going to disrupt the market."
Meanwhile, Hawaiian said it's well prepared to compete with Southwest.
"Southwest is the latest entrant. But today we compete with most of the U.S. major airlines and most of the Pacific Rim national airlines and we've succeeded against all of them and we don't expect anything different in the new environment," said Hawaiian CEO Mark Dunkerley during a recent interview with CNBC.
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