Southwest Air previously announced that there would be no Hawaii service announcements in 2012 although I believe their interest in Hawaii remains active. Previously we’d suggested that Southwest Air might easily decide to enter the inter-island airline market as well. There’s news now that gives us an indication of what to expect.
Southwest Air’s Boeing 717’s
Southwest inherited a fleet of 88, 717’s in their acquisition of AirTran back in 2010. These are the exact same planes used by Hawaiian Air to fly within Hawaii and are the quintessential island-hopping craft.
Yesterday, Southwest announced that they will lease the entire fleet of 717’s to Delta Airlines. The tentative agreement puts the planes in Delta’s hands starting next year and goes through 2015.
Could these appear in Hawaii in the interim? No.
Southwest said that the planes have not been retrofit for Southwest, and are to transition directly from AirTran to Delta. With those planes goes the likelihood that Southwest would consider inter-island service in the foreseeable future.
Other inter-island airline possibilities – maybe Alaska?
The only carrier that could consider entry into the Hawaii airline market between islands is Alaska Air. They remain the player to watch now that Allegiant has announced all initial Hawaii routes and Southwest Air is out of the Hawaii picture for the time being.
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depsite the denial of SWA CEO that they have any plans to come to Hawaii in the near future, SWA still could enter the inter-island market, even without their 717s.
they have so many new b737s on order that eventually (and i do mean EVENTUALLY) they will be able to remove their older -300 and -500 aircraft from certain routes. These planes would be perfectly suited to interisland travel.
i know what you’re thinking, Aloha went out of business flying 737s interisland, but really, that was because the -200s they were flying were gas guzzlers and very expensive to maintain. the -300 and -500 are infinitely more economical (in comparison).