"We're ready and excited to address a request we've heard for years".
Southwest's announcement comes just days after it debuted the Boeing 737 MAX 8, which the carrier will likely use to operate flights to the Hawaiian islands.
Southwest Airlines, ending years of speculation, officially announced late this afternoon that it will start selling tickets to Hawaii beginning next year and offer fares that are lower than those now in the marketplace.
Fans of Hawaii are hoping that "the Southwest Effect" happens next year when Southwest Airlines hopes to begin serving islands in the Pacific.
In a Wednesday statement about the new service Southwest said it was announcing its "intention to launch an application process for Federal Aviation Administration authorization".
Southwest Airlines is now the third-busiest carrier in the USA, and a study by the University of Virginia this year found that Southwest still has the power to force its rivals to lower fares to stay competitive. Why now? We need to take our Extended Operations (ETOPS) work to the next level and gain FAA certification of ETOPS-equipped aircraft in our fleet and establish required operational processes to offer our Customers nonstop service they expect from California to one of the world's top leisure destinations. The latest version of the planemaker's best-selling jet, the 737 Max, can fly farther and is more fuel efficient than older models.
"We see prices higher than they need to be and we anticipate lowering fares", Watterson said in an interview.
A new reservation system that allows for more complicated itineraries and overnight trips is also enabling Southwest to add Hawaii flights. Southwest received nine MAX 8s on October 1 and will have 14 by the end of this year.
Service details are to be announced at a later date, according to Southwest Airlines.