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Southwest Will Start Hawaii Flights from California, Plans Inter-island Service

Southwest Hawaii Kauai

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Southwest Airlines has confirmed it will begin service to Hawaii from a handful of cities in California. Further, the budget-friendly airline also plans to eventually run flights between the four Hawaiian islands it’s targeting.

Southwest announced just last week it would fly to Honolulu (HNL), Kahului (OGG), Lihue (LIH) and Kona (KOA), the four major Hawaiian islands starting in October of 2017. The airline plans to launch its first flight in late 2018 or early 2019, and then ramp up rapidly with other routes. Tickets should go on sale later this year.

 

The Details of Southwest’s Hawaii Plans

Southwest’s entry into the Hawaiian market could bring some much-needed competition and lower prices to one of the United States’ hottest tourist destinations. The assumption was that this service would begin out of California, where it has a strong presence, and expand from there. And that’s just what’s happening.

The airline told Skift that service to Hawaii will begin from Oakland (OAK), Sacramento (SMF), San Jose (SJC) and San Diego (SAN). Just which city gets the first flight, and where it will fly, remains to be seen.

Additionally, Southwest President Tom Nealon shed light on a new development with the Pacific Business News. The airline plans to eventually run flights between the islands. Nealon said that would have to wait until “we build up our network.” But he hopes to start inter-island service by the end of 2019.

Those lower fares to Hawaii you’re hoping for? It could be real. “I can’t suggest what other airline’s pricing departments will do but our fares will be lower, and what we have seen is that does tend to bring the prices down within the market,” Nealon said.

Southwest will eventually fly the brand new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft on these Hawaii flights, as they have a greater range to make the overwater flight. However, the airline will start off their service with some older Boeing 737-800s.

 

Our Analysis

We’re anxious to see Southwest’s route schedule start to materialize. While it’s no surprise that service to Hawaii is beginning from California, we’re hopeful that nonstop flights will eventually creep into the Midwest. Until then, one-stop flights for travelers outside the West Coast should be no problem.

We’ve seen some low fares to Hawaii lately but in general, this market is desperate for more competition. Southwest should bring that.

Southwest will also be a strong option for getting to Hawaii on an award ticket. Keep in mind, Southwest Airlines is a 1:1 transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards. Chase Ultimate Rewards can be earned from credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Further, the co-branded Southwest credit cards are also a solid option for earning Southwest Rapid Rewards points and a great way to earn the Southwest Companion Pass.

However, Chase recently added a restriction which makes that harder as they no longer allow you to of the Southwest personal credit cards. If you can get approved for a Chase Southwest business card, you will still have an easy path to the Companion Pass.

 

Bottom Line

It’s no surprise that Southwest will start flights to Hawaii from California. But their plan to launch inter-island service is a great development for budget-conscious travelers who want to see more of the famous U.S. islands.

 

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