Southwest to Hawaii?

Southwest has prided itself on keeping things simple when it comes to airplanes.  Up until the acquisition of AirTran, they only owned 737s.  And there’s no guarantee they keep the AirTran fleet, with over 70 new 737s on the way over the next two years.

They’ve now graduated to the 737-800.  It’s a bigger plane, which definitely changes Southwest’s model.  They’ve been awesome at filling all the seats on their current planes.  And, since they’re all essentially the same configuration, it makes their fleet planning easier. So, this definitely adds a wrinkle, since the 800 is significantly bigger than the 700 (depending on configuration, 40 more than the 700).

What’s even more interesting is that the 800 can fly to Hawaii, where their current fleet can’t.  There’s NO question I won’t end up on one of their planes for 5 hours to Hawaii.  However, competition’s a great thing, and LCCs (low-cost carriers) generally have stayed away from Hawaii service.  I’ll be interested to see what effect Southwest might have on the legacy carriers if they chose to throw their hat in the ring.

ETA:  Cholula has pointed out that the 700 has been flying from the West Coast to Hawaii.  I was under the impression that Southwest’s 700s were not ETOPS certified.  It’s possible their engine combination is not.  I’m researching….

More ETA:  I thought I had remembered this blog post from a while ago.  Essentially, it looks like in late 2010 Southwest started thinking about ETOPS certification.

For those that are not famliar, ETOPS (extended operations, or the alternative joke of Engines Turn or Passengers Swim) is a certification to fly more than X minutes from any airport (generally over large bodies of water).  So, for a typical Hawaii flight, you’re generally required to have 180 minutes of ETOPS.

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My goal in life is to fill my family’s passports with stamps, creating buckets of memories along the way. You’ll find me writing about realistic ways for normal people to travel the world, whether you’re on a budget or enjoy luxury. I also enjoy taking us on the occasional detour to explore the inner workings of the travel industry.

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  1. The 737-700 ETOPS could and did fly to Hawaii for years. I flew them several times from SNA to OGG when Aloha Airlines was still in business. And I believe that Alaska uses the 700 from several of their West Coast cities to Hawaii.

    But, regardless, I’d welcome Southwest adding Hawaii to their destinations because, as you imply, they would put the squeeze on the legacy carriers who charge outrageous prices to Hawaii. We fly there several times a year and would most likely fly Southwest occasionally if they operated Hawaii service out of LAX.

    After 6 years of retirement, I’ve burned through my gazillions of DL miles and we’re now relegated to flying UA’s rickety and beaten up 763’s to OGG in E+ at nearly $900 RT per person. 🙁

  2. Ed, I don’t believe Southwest’s 700’s are ETOPS certified but they certainly could be in short order if they decided to add Hawaii to their route system.

    A bit of trivia for those who fly Alaska Airlines or see their jets at various airports. All Alaska Airlines aircraft have a picture of an Eskimo on their tail. Those aircraft that are ETOPS certified have a colorful Hawaiian lei around the Eskimo’s neck.

  3. Yep, I couldn’t find any evidence that they’ve applied for or received ETOPS certification. But, as you say, shouldn’t be hard based on all the other 700 configurations already certified.

    I didn’t know that about the lei. Interesting. Guess that means all the non-ETOPS certified planes should have a life vest on the old guy. 😛

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