“We anticipate fares will drop.”
With those five words, the gauntlet was dropped this week by Andrew Watterson, executive vice president of Southwest Airlines. Now the third-busiest carrier in the United States, Southwest plans to enter the Hawaii market next year—and set off what industry insider refer to as “the Southwest effect” by forcing competitors to lower their fares to compete.
According to Watterson, Southwest believes it can charge less than what other carriers currently do. A Delta round-trip from San Francisco to Honolulu in early December rings in at $1,154. A Chicago round-trip is $1,722.
Six airlines now offer service to the islands—Alaska, American, Delta, Hawaiian, Virgin America (now part of Alaska) and United.
Southwest flies to more than 100 destinations in the United States and nine other countries, with more than 4,000 departures a day during peak travel times.
The FAA must approve the new route, as it did when Southwest expanded its range into the Caribbean and Mexico. Upon approval, Watterson said, the airline will fly from California to Honolulu, Kauai and Hawaii Island.
The Hawaii run will feature Southwest’s new line of Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircrafts, which have increased range and fuel efficiency, and seat 175 passengers.
Southwest held a dual press announcement from a company gathering in Southern California and on Waikiki Beach. The latter was attended by Hawaii Governor David Ige and Southwest President Tom Nealon, who said, “The unmatched combination of our people and low fares with nothing to hide will be a game-changer in the U.S. to Hawaii market.”
Southwest Chairman and CEO Gary Kelly said that the new route will be “about as far Southwest as you can go in the U.S.,” and then added, “We’re ready and excited to address a request we’ve heard for years.”