Southwest coming to neighbor islands

  • Photo courtesy of Southwest Airlines

    Southwest Airlines will be flying planes like this 737 MAX 8 in Hawaii.

LIHUE — Southwest Airlines has been granted a permit for lease space at Lihue Airport.

The revocable permit was recently approved by the Department of Land and Natural Resource, indicating the Dallas- based carrier’s intention of servicing Neighbor Islands.

“We’re really on the cusp of an exciting time for the largest domestic carrier in the United States and California’s largest carrier,” said Brad Hawkins, senior communication advisor for Southwest. “A gaping hole in our network has been California’s favorite closest warm-weather destination.”

The permit approval could also represent interisland service for the carrier, which is expected to launch ticket sales in Hawaii sometime this year.

“We’re looking at the interisland opportunity,” Hawkins said. “We’re looking at a way we can thoughtfully connect air markets, nonstop routes where fares could use some pressure perhaps.”

“We’re very mindful of making certain that we add service that’s relevant, that’s wanted, that fits into what communities we serve want,” Hawkins said. “So we’re all the while listening to those considerations about space at the airport, traffic, and those considerations.”

In October, just two weeks after the airline announced it would enter the Hawaii market, Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly said during a conference call with investors that the airline is seriously considering interisland service, although it “has been down our priority list.”

“In October of last year, we became the launch customer of the 737 MAX 8,” Hawkins said. “It has the range, the extended efficiency, the newer construction and engineering, the quieter engines, and for us it is the plane that we will ultimately fly to Hawaii.”

The 737 planes each hold a maximum of 175 passengers with all economy seating.

The U.S. domestic carrier that also flies to 11 countries across the Caribbean and Central America will continue its policy of allowing two free bags per passenger with no change fees.

“We are in the process of engaging with communities,” Hawkins said. “We’re meeting with all the Neighbor Islands this week and next week for meetings with civic and business leaders, tourism and media, really making sure we listen to the community before we offer a product so that we know what locals want.”

Last month, the airline was issued a revocable permit for airline operations at Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport on Oahu.

“Our work continues on the Mainland and with the State of Hawaii to ready the landscape for our service that only would follow required governmental approvals,” Hawkins said.

The airline has been working with the Federal Aviation Administration to receive ETOPS clearance, or Extended-range Twin-engine Operational Performance Standards, which is required for the airline to operate trans-Pacific flights.

“We do not want to get out ahead of those details and disappoint either our fans or our communities or the government, but we’re respectfully in this back and forth with them,” Hawkins said, “and we have committed to selling tickets this year for service from California to multiple points in the islands.”

  1. MisterM April 22, 2018 4:46 am Reply

    All economy seating? Yuck. Fail. C’mon WN, add some better seats for 5-6 hr flights.

  2. Joe Public April 22, 2018 1:37 pm Reply

    ALOHA! and welcome to Hawaii. Your presence is much needed and appreciated. Residents and visitors have been held hostage by unchallenged airfare costs in Hawaii.

    Thank you for considering doing business in the islands.

  3. No_They_Didn't April 23, 2018 3:11 pm Reply

    What happened to getting approval from the proper protocol voter’s choice? Mayor Bernard p. Carvalho Jr and all of your County Council.

    It’s in the charter amendment. County meetings. So you’re saying they are few smart people on Kauai that recognize failure and adding to it, the airline mechanic license? Who was it? The mechanics or the politicians that failed. Politicians failed.

    DLNR? Seems pretty odd approval, but ok, PhD in science and foods. Agriculture.

  4. No_They_Didn't April 23, 2018 3:32 pm Reply

    Well there are some people on Kauai that want to give Bernard p.Carvalho Jr. The credit for Southwest coming to Kauai. Is this delegated authority? I for one know what happened over Philadelphia last Tuesday. One of your left engines blew up over 32,000 feet. Air fleets. Emergency landing in Philadelphia. NY, La Gurdia to Dallas. 1 executive from NM, died on that flight.

    Read all about it. Last week.

  5. No_They_Didn't April 23, 2018 3:46 pm Reply

    My mom voted for that failure Bernard p. Carvalho Jr. One problem? He still has no portfolio on major decisions as the airport happenings. Sad to see 100s of years of our constitution enacted and carried forth by failures. Who was he? Washington? 1776 Right? Just fail like the mayor.

  6. Bob Thomas April 24, 2018 7:07 am Reply

    SWA economy is “Better than most” circa Tiger woods 17th hole TPC Sawgrass.

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