By Mary Schlangenstein, Bloomberg

Southwest Airlines is finally going to start flying to Hawaii, and a top executive says ticket prices will get cheaper.

Flights to the state will begin next year or in 2019, the discount carrier said. The initial service will be from California, said Chief Revenue Officer Andrew Watterson, without elaborating on specific routes.

“We see prices higher than they need to be and we anticipate lowering fares,” Watterson said in an interview.

Southwest is adding Hawaii to its network — after years of requests from travelers and employees — with help from Boeing’s upgraded 737. The latest version of the planemaker’s best-selling jet, the 737 Max, can fly farther and is more fuel efficient than older models. Southwest this month became the first North American airline to fly the new model.

“For us, it’s the perfect fit for Hawaii,” Watterson said. “The Max has got 14 percent better range and 14 percent better fuel burn” than the airline’s 737-800 planes.

A new reservation system that allows for more complicated itineraries and overnight trips is also allowing Southwest to add Hawaii flights. The Dallas-based airline in the coming weeks will begin seeking federal approval to operate its planes on extended over-water routes. That process typically takes about a year to 18 months and flights to Hawaii can’t begin until it’s completed.

Tickets will go on sale next year, Southwest said in a statement late Wednesday. Even if Hawaii flights start in 2018, they won’t alter fleet or capacity plans for the year, the company said.

Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International is dominated by Hawaiian Holdings Inc., carrying 56 percent of passengers at the state’s busiest airport, according to the U.S. Transportation Department. United Continental Holdings Inc. follows with 16 percent. Hawaiian also dominates Kahului, the second-busiest, with 51 percent.

Hawaiian fell 2.3 percent to $39.10 at …read more

Source:: The Denver Post – Business

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