Are We About To See Southwest Open Bookings For Hawaii?

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Southwest first announced its plan to operate flights between the mainland and Hawaii back in October 2017 and the intention was for the airline to commence service to the islands at some point in 2018.

2018 came and went and thanks to delays in getting its aircraft ETOPS certified (Extended-range Twin-engine Operational Performance Standards) we are yet to see a Southwest commercial flight making its way to Hawaii….but this may be about to change.

a blue and red airplane flying in the sky
Image courtesy of Southwest

Southwest has recently been flying a number of ‘proving’ flights between the mainland and Hawaii and USA Today has now reported that the Southwest CEO, Gary Kelly, has told employees that the airline has been given an unofficial “thumbs up” from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) following these flights and is now just waiting for the official documentation to come through.

Southwest has said all along that it will launch flights to Hawaii as soon as possible after receiving the go ahead from the FAA and, back in January (after the government shutdown ended), it was suggested that flights may commence from April.

With March upon us this Friday it’s therefore entirely possible that we’re only days away from Southwest opening up bookings for its first Hawaii flights….and that’s something a lot of people have been looking forward to.

Why The Excitement?

The main reason for the excitement is that a lot of people are hoping that the introduction of Southwest into the Hawaii market will see fares drop significantly.

The legacy airlines operating the routes between the continental US and Hawaii haven’t, up until now, had to deal with a budget carrier competing directly with them and now that’s exactly what they’re facing.

Not only is Southwest known for offering fares at a very attractive levels but it’s also generally considered to be an airline with very strong customer service and not at all what you may expect from a budget airline.

On the one hand you cannot reserve a seat on Southwest while, on the other hand, the airline allows customers two free checked bags….which is fantastic for a domestic carrier.

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Generally speaking Southwest staff are considered amongst the nicest in the business and when you add to that the fact that one of the best domestic airline benefits is the Southwest Companion pass you’ll probably see why having Southwest offer flights to/from Hawaii is looked upon as very good news.

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Southwest hasn’t yet provided details of specific routes but we do know the following:

  • All of Southwest’s Hawaii routes will be from/to California
  • Californian departure cities will be Oakland, San Diego, San Jose and Sacramento
  • Hawaiian destinations served will include Honolulu (Oahu), Kahului (Maui), Kona (Hawaii) and Lihue (Kauai).

The airline has also said that it plans to offer short-hop services between the Hawaiian Islands but no details have been forthcoming so far.

Bottom Line

I’m looking forward seeing three things once Southwest starts selling fares for travel to/from Hawaii:

  • The price range Southwest settles on for its flights to/from Hawaii (will it consistently offer noticeably cheaper fares than the legacies?)
  • How the legacy airlines react to Southwest’s introduction into the market.
  • Will Southwest allows its famous companion fare to be used on its Hawaii routes and, if it does, will it come with any added limitations.

Overall, having Southwest operate flights between the mainland and Hawaii should be great news for consumers but, when all is said and done, the airline is in this to make money so I’m not entirely convinced that we’ll see a significant decrease in fares long-term.

What do you think?


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