As of May 3, 2018. With Southwest Hawaii flights scheduled to start just months from now, four California airports plus definitive inter-island intentions were announced today.
1. First California departure cities will be Oakland, San Diego, San Jose and Sacramento.
“We intend to serve four Hawaiian Islands from California. While specific routes are not yet available for purchase, our initial intention is to begin Hawaii nonstop service from Oakland (OAK), San Diego (SAN), San Jose (SJC), and Sacramento (SMF). From California, you can reach Honolulu, HI (Oahu), Kahului, HI (Maui), Kona, HI (Island of Hawaii), and Lihue, HI (Kauai).” — SWA 5/3/18
BOH: It is interesting to us that Los Angeles will not be part of the initial departure cities. We still expect LA to be added at some point.
2. Hawaii inter-island service and time frame confirmed.
“We also intend to provide interisland service, so you can fly between the Hawaiian Islands with us, too.” — SWA 5/3/18
“We will start interisland service once we build up our network and have enough frequency to make it meaningful.” — SWA president Tom Nealon.
BOH: Plans are for interisland service to start before the end of 2019 with a new Hawaii based crew. There could be issues with the current SW fleet in terms of engine cooling on repeated short routes. It remains to be seen if this will have an impact on flight frequencies, or if there will be a combination of inter-island plus one-stop service to mitigate this potential problem. An example of that would be Oakland/Honolulu/Lihue/Oakland.
3. Pricing will be aggressive.
“We will come in with lower fares, and not introductory fares. We have the structure to offer low fares…. It’s got to be a price that’s competitive and the lowest price in the market.” — SWA president Tom Nealon.
BOH: First, a fare war of unprecedented low fares is inevitable. We wonder if Alaska Airlines might withdraw from these routes once Southwest service starts.
4. Prior news.
As of April 26, CEO Gary Kelly said: “I think we are going to see a nice (Hawaii) ramp up very quickly. We are going to lead on pricing and we are going to generate a lot of traffic very quickly.”
Four Hawaii airports announced. Southwest CEO Gary Kelly confirmed that they will be serving all of Hawaii’s primary airports: Honolulu, Maui, Kauai and the Big Island. That from California airports initially, as previously indicated.
Timing remains unchanged. Beat of Hawaii expects a commencement date announcement to happen no later than October 2018, with flights to commence in December or early 2019.
All Southwest plans were shaken by recent accidents. Following its April 17 incident and first ever passenger fatality as the result of an uncontained engine failure, as well as another subsequent incident, the company has been trying to regroup and cover. All marketing activity was halted. “What is obvious is we are off-plan” — CEO Gary Kelly.
Long Beach as a future departure city? JetBlue has announced it is cutting back service to Long Beach. That will make additional slots available for Southwest, should it be interested. Hawaiian Airlines will also be flying from Long Beach to Honolulu starting next month.
When will the long awaited announcement of start dates happen? We have heard this might not happen until October, although it remains possible it could even be sooner. A statement on Southwest’s website indicated: “While we do not yet have details to share on exact dates or routes, they do represent our initial footprints and top priorities for the soonest service in the State of Hawaii.”
Routes other than from California. Previously we had reported Las Vegas and Phoenix in addition to California flights. Those are coming a bit later.
Test flights are expected soon. We are still awaiting the required test flights to Hawaii, which are likely to take place this summer. These will be nearly impossible to hide and a sure sign that the approval process is advancing to completion.
Aircraft. Flights are still set to start on existing 737-800 aircraft, as are being used by other carriers on flights to Hawaii. They will then transition to their new 737 MAX 8 and perhaps 737 MAX 7. The latter brings cities like Denver and beyond into range.
Southwest service offerings. Southwest’s unique one-class service paradigm will remain unchanged according to CEO Gary Kelly. They include:
1. Two free checked bags.
2. No seat assignments. There will still be an early boarding option for $15, which should prove to be extremely popular on flights to Hawaii.
3. No meals for sale. Only drinks and snacks as is customary for the airline.
4. No charger ports. You’ll need to bring a charged battery and perhaps a charger pack. We use the Anker ones, which have been the best performing and most reliable.
5. In-flight entertainment. It will be available on your own devices only. Fee based satellite WiFi may be offered either at launch or subsequently.
SWA Hawaii overnight/red-eye flights
Kelly stated that while they may offer overnight flights in the future, “we don’t really desire to fly red-eyes right now.” “For our style of operation, it would complicate things.
BOH: Overnight service will definitely come to their Hawaii flights in the future, once they have more experience here. That should occur sooner than later out of logistical necessity.
The “Southwest Effect”
So exactly what impact can we expect to see in terms of Hawaii airfares once SWA is a reality? A 2016 Northeastern University study based on 2010 data found that when they enter a market, a whopping 24% drop in airfares can be anticipated.