Rumors started to swirl about Southwest's island expansion after it acquired a new fleet of Boeing 737 Max planes and Bloomberg reports that the company's chief revenue officer made the news official today.
The first flights to Hawaii will be from California, though Southwest's CRO, Andrew Watterson, didn't offer any specifics. What he did mention was price, however: According to him, as they stand, ticket prices are much too high and he hopes that Southwest will change that.
"We see prices higher than they need to be and we anticipate lowering fares," Watterson said, according to Bloomberg.
Before any official routes can be announced, Southwest has to apply for federal approval, since trips to Hawaii will be taking the carrier over "extended over-water routes." That process can take up to 18 months, so anyone hoping to plan a budget-friendly trip to the islands may have to wait a while.
With new competition on the horizon, existing carriers may have to respond by lowering their own prices to stay competitive. It's been witnessed before and pros have even dubbed the phenomenon the Southwest Effect. However, Hawaiian Airlines, the largest brand to service Hawaii, isn't afraid of the competition. It's hoping that customer service and more comfortable amenities will keep it front of mind for travelers.
"We are no strangers to competition," Alison Croyle, a spokeswoman for Hawaiian, said to Bloomberg. "Our superior product, authentic Hawaiian hospitality and leading punctuality offer travelers the best value when flying to and within our Hawaiian islands."
To that, Watterson said that as a budget carrier, Southwest won't be competing with premium brands offering lie-flat seats. Customers accustomed to flying economy — that's most customers — will probably be glad to see a familiar brand flying to a new spot and hop aboard without a second thought.
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