With new planes in the offing, will this be the juncture at which Southwest goes the route of Alaska Air and United, and brings their brand of 737-based service to the islands?
Southwest recently reached agreement with its pilots to operate 737-800 aircraft as a part of their next round of fleet acquisitions. That rekindled in my mind the question of what happened to Southwest’s earlier intentions of serving Hawaii.
I haven’t written about Southwest for some time, but back in early 2009, Southwest appeared to have shelved earlier plans of reaching Hawaii. That came following the 2008 demise of code-share partner ATA, and failed attempts to reach a new Hawaii partner agreement. Southwest has been smartly reticent to get into the Hawaii fray unless and until they can find a way to do so profitably.
Southwest has made it clear over the past five years that they would like to find a way to bring service to Hawaii. Yet issues remain including:
- Lack of diversified 737-reachable routes (you can’t get far from the west coast with these planes).
- Fierce competition including Alaska, American, Continental/United, Delta, Hawaiian, US Air, and soon Allegiant.
- New aircraft and personnel require complicated, costly ETOPS (extended twin engine) certification.
- The likelihood of excessive demand for unprofitable frequent flyer tickets to Hawaii.
My take: it’s inevitable that Southwest will serve Hawaii.
It may not happen this year or next, but I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t happen at all. Likely they will decide of a fleet of some number of ETOPS certified planes and crew in the next round of acquisitions.
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