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Southwest could target Hawaii, Caribbean with new Boeing jets

By David Koenig
Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 05:37 a.m. HST, Mar 23, 2012

DALLAS » Southwest Airlines Co. is rolling out some new, larger planes that will start hauling passengers next month and could eventually fly a Hawaii route.

The airline introduced its first Boeing 737-800 on Wednesday during a launch party for several hundred employees in a hangar at its Dallas headquarters.

The plane holds 175 passengers, compared with 137 on the biggest jet now in Southwest's fleet, the 737-700. The extra 38 seats should mean more revenue per flight.

"It's going to make us more profitable from day one," said Chief Operating Officer Mike Van de Ven.

The new plane has higher ceilings and more overhead bin space than other Southwest planes and will be equipped for wireless Internet access.

Southwest plans to get 33 of the new planes this year, and 41 next year, while retiring a similar number of older jets. Southwest has more than 550 planes, not counting its AirTran Airways subsidiary.

If it passes operating tests, Wednesday's plane will join the fleet on April 11. Southwest plans to use it and other 737-800s mostly on long-haul flights out of Baltimore, Chicago and Florida airports, then in Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

It could also be used at New York's LaGuardia Airport and Washington's Rea­gan National Airport, where Southwest has limited takeoff and landing slots, Van de Ven said.

Eventually the new plane could allow Southwest to fly to Hawaii and the Caribbean, said CEO Gary Kelly. First, the airline needs to negotiate Hawaii-trip pay scales for union pilots and flight attendants, he said.

"As long as you have the demand for 175 customers, it's a really good business decision," Kelly said.

Extra seating is a recurring theme at Southwest, which needs more revenue to offset high fuel costs. The airline is installing smaller seats on its 369 Boeing 737-700s, making room for another row with six seats.

The 737-800 is Southwest's first new model since it added the 737-700 in 1997.

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Maneki_Neko wrote:
Please come here Southwest. As soon as possible. Then start inter-island. Please. We are being held hostage by a monopoly!
on March 23,2012 | 06:45AM
dhclinton wrote:
they cant come soon enough. i remember the day aloha went out of business. i was in maui and some visitors were trying to get back to the mainland. hawaiian wanted to charge them something like $1400 for a one way ticket to california EACH. shame on hawaiian air.
on March 23,2012 | 06:56AM
cojef wrote:
Agree, miss Aloha's demise from Orange County(John Wayne) airport very much. Our annual trip to Oahu now requires us to catch a shuttle to LAX for our flights on HA. Tough luck. Hope Southwest makes their decision on HON soon.
on March 23,2012 | 09:12AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
New SWA ad: "At Southwest we don't let our 70 year old passengers spend the night on the floor of a Kauai shelter." Yeah, that has a nice ring to it.
on March 23,2012 | 09:20AM
kyle50 wrote:
Can't wait for Soutwest. Free bags and great customer service.
on March 23,2012 | 11:19AM
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