by Loren G. Edelstein | October 13, 2017
Southwest Airlines shared plans with employees this week to begin selling tickets in 2018 for service to Hawaii. Service details are to be announced at a later date.
"A day long-awaited by our customers, fans and more than 55,000 of the world's most-loved airline employees is finally within sight - a day that will showcase your hospitality, about as far Southwest as you can go in the U.S.," Chairman & CEO Gary Kelly told thousands of Southwest employees at a company gathering in Southern California on Wednesday. "Hawaii is an important place for Southwest Airlines, because so many people count on us to take them everywhere they want to go, reliably and affordably. We're ready and excited to address a request we've heard for years."

The carrier now will embark on a process to obtain approval from the Federal Aviation Administration for Extended Operations (ETOPS), a regulatory requirement to operate between the mainland and the Hawaiian islands.

"The launch of our ETOPS work begins the next chapter of Southwest Airlines. We're thrilled to bring Hawaii next year as an option to more than 115 million customers who already fly with us, annually," said Mike Van de Ven, Southwest's COO.

Southwest president Tom Nealon joined the announcement via satellite from Honolulu's Waikiki Beach and introduced the governor of Hawaii, the Hon. David Ige, who expressed his welcome to Southwest employees. 

Earlier this month, Southwest became the launch customer of the Boeing 737 MAX 8. The next-generation aircraft are equipped with satellite-based WiFi enabling gate-to-gate connectivity. Customers can use personal devices to view video on-demand movies and TV shows, as well as nearly 20 channels of free, live TV.

In its 47th year of service, Dallas-based Southwest Airlines has more than 55,000 employees.