Southwest intends to begin flights to Hawaii in 2018. 

"We're ready and excited to address a request we've heard for years," CEO Gary Kelly said in a statement. 

Southwest, which flies the most domestic U.S. customers of any airline, has applied with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for Extended Operations Service authorization, a required regulatory step ahead of commencing flights between the continental U.S. and Hawaii. 

Southwest did not say which routes it intends to fly, nor did it provide a timeline more specific than 2018 for when it intends to begin Hawaii service. 

The carrier suggested that the delivery of Boeing's new 737 Max 8 aircraft has facilitated its decision to service the Hawaiian islands. The Max 8 offers more efficiency and range than previous generation 737s. 

Southwest, which operates a 737-only fleet, began flying its first nine 737 Max 8 planes this month and expects to have five more of the aircraft in operation by the end of the year. 

The Max will fly approximately 3,800 miles, about 450 miles farther than current 737-800 aircraft, Norwegian Air chief commercial officer Thomas Ramdahl told Travel Weekly in March. This summer, Norwegian became the first airline to offer 737 Max service from the U.S.  

Southwest has a total of 200 737 Max 7s and 737 Max 8s on firm order through the middle of next decade.

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