Southwest Airlines to offer flights to Hawaii; tickets to go on sale next year

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The sun rises over the beautiful Mokes on the shores of Lanikai Beach in Kailua, Oahu.

It won’t be long before you’ll be able to book a Southwest Airlines flight to Hawaii.

Dallas-based Southwest will start selling tickets to the popular vacation destination in 2018. The airline hasn’t yet announced any specifics regarding routes or frequency of flights.

Southwest Chairman and CEO Gary Kelly called the announcement a “day long-awaited” by customers, fans and employees. Travelers have wanted Southwest to offer flights to Hawaii for years, and Kelly said it’s one of the top questions from employees. The airline made the announcement during a company gathering in Southern California. Tom Nealon, the airline’s president, joined the meeting via satellite from Hawaii’s famed Waikiki Beach alongside Hawaii’s governor.

“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,” Kelly said.

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.

No specific routes have been announced, but it’s a safe assumption that the airline will launch its Hawaii flights from the West Coast. Another big key in the Hawaii announcement is the launch of Southwest’s Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft, which offer expanded range compared to other models.

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 is expected to bring its low-fare, bags-fly-free, no-fee model to the marketplace.