Southwest Airlines, the U.S. carrier known for its lack of seating assignments, short routes and no-frills service has announced plans to start selling tickets for service to Hawaii next year, answering a lingering question from investors and loyal customers alike.
The airline's decision to offer service to the Aloha State could make Hawaiian vacations cheaper. In what's been dubbed the "Southwest Effect," in markets where the airline has nonstop service fares are $45 lower than in cities without those routes, a University of Virginia study found.
Hawaii has been a popular tourist destination for decades but demand continues to climb. The state last year had a record 8.9 million visitors — a number that got a boost from some tourists who avoided the Caribbean and Florida due to the Zika virus outbreak. Hawaii logged a 5 percent increase in visitors in the first eight months of the year.
Southwest didn't say exactly when service to Hawaii would begin. It first needs to apply for Federal Aviation Administration authorization to operate the long-distance flight.
The Hawaii routes will most likely be serviced by the airline's new planes and fly to and from the West Coast.
The airline took delivery of its first Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft in August. The planes are more fuel efficient and can fly longer distances than older models.
Another low-fare airline across the Pacific beat Southwest to Hawaii, but the two might be complementary.
Low-cost Malaysian airline AirAsia X launched its first flights from Kuala Lumpur and Osaka, Japan, to Honolulu in June. Southwest's Hawaii services could provide a link to the mainland U.S. for tourists visiting the U.S. from Asia.