Southwest Airlines unveils a Shark Week themed Boeing 737. // Stephen M. Keller, 2017

LONDON – Southwest Airlines has confirmed that services to Hawaii have been finally approved and has a launch date for March 17.

Tickets for the route have already gone on sale for flights between Oakland and San Jose to the islands.

Commenting on the new milestone in Southwest’s history was CEO Gary Kelly who expressed great excitement over these new operations.

“As we answer the call for Southwest in Hawaii with an initial schedule of service that speaks to a long-held hope of our Customers, I applaud and congratulate our People for their steady and impressive work to bring our world-famous Hospitality and game-changing value to the Islands”.

The carrier will begin services between Oakland and Honolulu on March 17 on a once daily basis, with the return on March 18. From March 24, the frequencies will be subsequently upgraded to twice daily in each direction.

In a couple of weeks after that, Oakland to Kahului will inaugurate, on April 7 on a once daily basis before going twice daily by April 10 alone.

On top of this, interisland services between Honolulu and Kahului will begin on April 28 on a four times daily basis.

Moving to May, we will see San Jose to Honolulu begin on May 5, once daily in each direction.

On that same month, on May 12, we will see interisland services between Honolulu and Kona begin on a four times daily service also.

Finally, San Jose to Kahului will inaugurate on May 26, operating once daily in both directions.

Operations will launch with Boeing 737-800s that have been ETOPs approved before transitioning to the more fuel-efficient MAX8 and MAX7 variations.

FAA Approval was acquired towards the end of February, with the carrier saying the following on this.

“The FAA officially authorized Southwest to operate ETOPS or Extended Operations flights that, among other potential routes, will technically allow us to serve Hawaii, as previously announced.”

The product will offer two free checked bags, no seat assignments and early boarding options for $15 extra.

No meals will be for sale with only drinks and snacks being customary for the airline.

It goes to the whole no-frills element also as well with no charger ports, with recommendations for Anker charger packs.

In-flight entertainment will be available on your own devices only, with fee based Wi-Fi being offered at either the launch date or later into the operations.

In terms of legroom, 32 inches will be on offer as standard pitch on all seats, offering the most legroom in the economy of any carrier across the Pacific.

It has been a whirlwind couple of weeks/months for Southwest, with the approval finally acquired and with the launch date only weeks away, it will be something to tick off the boxes.

It will for sure provide a lot of significant competition with the likes of Hawaiian, not just on the operations to the U.S but also on the interisland services too, which is penetrating two for the price of one in terms of operations.

How Hawaiian and other American carriers will respond to this is unclear currently, but we will no doubt start to see market share configuration change as the routes are inaugurated and operated.