EarlyBird Ran A-Fowl | Latest Southwest Hawaii Flight Review

EarlyBird Ran A-Fowl | Latest Southwest Hawaii Flight Review

Beat of Hawaii has been traveling to and from the mainland again on Southwest Hawaii flights. Most recently, two of us flew from Lihue to Las Vegas very recently, then on to Nashville. The whole affair was a mixed bag with EarlyBird, and then the flight left some good and bad impressions. It was far more favorable to editor Rob than it was to Jeff. But before that, let’s talk EarlyBird, and chirp in with your experiences too.

1. Southwest Hawaii EarlyBird failed in part! Pay more or else.

When you purchase EarlyBird ($25 per person) with your tickets, you get automatic check-in 36 hours in advance, 12 hours earlier than for general boarding. Since seats are not pre-assigned with Southwest, the lower the boarding number and group letter you’re assigned, the better seat choice you have when you board the plane. With EarlyBird, you’ll be in Group A (high number) or B. When you purchase tickets, you can also choose to pay the highest price, Business Select fare, which guarantees A1-15 boarding, or buy Upgraded Boarding to that same group 24 hours before the flight, if it’s available.

We purchased EarlyBird with our tickets, hoping to sit together and work on Beat of Hawaii using WiFi during the flight. Wrong. It turned out that to sit together on this full flight, we would have needed to pay $80 more (instead of $25) for Upgraded Boarding, which would have put us in the A1-15 group with a great choice of seats, or pay a lot more for Business Select when we bought tickets.

Because we had only purchased our flights one month prior to travel, the EarlyBird *upgrade* had less impact on moving us up the ladder compared with others who purchased it earlier. That’s something to note especially during peak times like summer to popular destinations like Hawaii.

Here’s what happened.

  • After the A group boarded (the first 59 people), Southwest boarded anyone needing time, families with children, etc. By our observation, 50 or more people were probably in that group. Even with EarlyBird, we were assigned the B boarding near the end of that group.
  • When it was our turn, and we were about to board the plane, we overheard a gentleman next in line behind us say to his companion, “What the heck. I paid for EarlyBird, and I will be the last one on the flight.” And he was virtually right. We looked around, and hardly anyone else was waiting to board after B group.
  • By the time we got on the plane, we could no longer sit together. We quickly jumped into seats several rows apart. Luckily, thanks to WiFi, we could communicate and still get some Beat of Hawaii editorial work completed en route. By the time we boarded, Rob’s overhead compartment was packed, and he had to use one five rows back. Jeff also ran into the same problem with his overhead compartment. It had been filled with boxes containing the snacks that were to be handed out during the flight.
  • On the Nashville flight, however, Early Bird got us a position in A group (near the bottom of that line), but that was good enough to sit together in an exit row and be able to work. However, that flight was not packed like the Hawaii one.

2. Southwest Hawaii check-in rocked.

We each checked one bag at Lihue. Rob was very impressed by how thorough the agent was in being sure that there were no other barcode stickers (which we had from Delta), for example. Also, they were very courteous – think old-school airline ways that we still love. Not only that, we both appreciated that Southwest doesn’t charge for checked bags, although we both tend to avoid those charges on other airlines either with their branded credit cards or when flying premium. Another plus with Southwest is that if your plans change, your unused flight credit doesn’t ever expire.

3. WiFi worked most of the time. No chargers.

For $8, we were overall happy campers to be able to work across the Pacific. The WiFi was not as good as we’ve experienced on other carriers over the ocean. It came and went noticeably, but it was possible to work when practicing patience. And on the other hand, it was noticeably better than on those airlines not currently offering WiFi to Hawaii, including Delta Airlines on its A321neo planes, Hawaiian Airlines on all aircraft, and American and United on some aircraft. We’ll bring you current on the status of these airlines shortly – so stay tuned for that.

There are still no chargers on Southwest for phones, but that is definitely in the works. Honestly, while that’s a nice and nowadays expected feature, it didn’t matter to either of us. We have taken to bringing on board lightweight, fast, chargers. The reason? One too many flights when a charger wasn’t working.

4. Solid Southwest Hawaii punctuality rocked.

When you’re flying nearly 5,000 miles on connecting flights, the last thing you want is to have your flight delayed and perhaps miss your connection. Both of our Southwest flights boarded and departed precisely on time.

EarlyBird Ran A-Fowl | Latest Southwest Hawaii Flight Review

5. Southwest Hawaii flight attendants – mostly great.

When Jeff wrote a review about his prior experience flying to Hawaii on Southwest, one of the things that stood out most to him was the quality of service provided by the flight attendants. They are, for the most part, happy to be doing what they do – and that is obvious. Despite stressful jobs, they are pleasant, kind, and helpful.

On the leg from Lihue to Las Vegas, the flight attendant pictured above was excellent all the way around. Kudos. The other flight attendant, who was mainly serving in the part of the aircraft we were both in, was not particularly good. He didn’t bring water unless you asked for it after the initial beverage and snack box and didn’t seem to exemplify the Southwest attitude and go-out-of-your-way flair we are fast becoming accustomed to. We both noted that even while sitting rows apart. It was disappointing, especially when reflecting back on our experience on the connecting flight.

On the leg from Las Vegas to Nashville, the flight attendants based in Dallas were superstars once again. It was great to see that the airline delivers consistently in that challenging regard overall. We have not found the same consistency in service to be true on Hawaiian, Alaska, or Delta, for example.

6. Southwest Hawaii snacks: plusses and problems.

As you may recall, Southwest does not have galley space for food on its airplanes. This presents benefits and complications. First, upon entering the aircraft, as mentioned above, several overhead bins were completely stuffed with boxes of snacks such that they could not be used by passengers. Not a big deal, but still worth noting. As we said, Rob found overhead space way behind where he was sitting.

On the plus side, and we’d say a pretty big plus, Southwest doesn’t use beverage/food carts. In the photo, the flight attendant carried out all the snack packages by hand. That means no bulky carts are blocking the aisle, which is especially helpful for passengers wanting to get up on the narrow-body MAX 8 plane. Regarding drink service, they take orders and deliver beverages on a hand-held tray.

The unhealthy snacks are, well, unhealthy snacks. Rob accepted his snack box, but Jeff declined that offer entirely.

Lastly, the boxes of chocolate cookies, part of the overhead luggage jam above row four, were never handed out at all. Lol.

Southwest does advise passengers not to rely on their snacks and to bring their food and water. It’s that kind of transparency that we like as well. You mostly know what to expect with Southwest.

EarlyBird Ran A-Fowl | Latest Southwest Hawaii Flight Review

7. Overall, Jeff wished Southwest Hawaii had Business, while Rob liked the flight.

The story’s moral is that Southwest is a unique airline; some love it, and some don’t. In terms of an apples-to-apples comparison with other narrow-body flights to Hawaii, however, even editor Jeff admitted and stated previously that the comfort on Southwest is superior. The additional legroom on Southwest compared with any other airline flying is between 1 and 2 inches. And the seat width is similar on narrow-body planes, with some variability. If you want to look at those dimensions, look for your plane on SeatGuru.

As we said, you tend to either love Southwest or not, and for now, Beat of Hawaii has one editor in each camp. The flight from Hawaii to Las Vegas was Rob’s first time on Southwest in many years. He reports liking it and the novelty of their system.

Jeff, on the other hand, has flown on Southwest Hawaii flights a number of times since last fall. His verdict is that a Business Select enhancement with a guaranteed seat assignment (which is not happening) would be more to his liking. On a short interisland flight for a half-hour, it’s not an issue, and he’s happy to fly Southwest. But otherwise, he finds their process stressful, including not knowing where he’ll be sitting or if he might get stuck in a middle seat again.


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30 thoughts on “EarlyBird Ran A-Fowl | Latest Southwest Hawaii Flight Review”

  1. Just flew Southwest from Las Vegas to Kona. Delay in Denver for “maintenance” then change of plane at Las Vegas . More delays, WiFi not working on this plane and as the plane sat, heat became an issue. After long delay, sitting on plane, taxied to runway and told we were 22nd in line to take off. After 1 hour on runway, it became too hot to fly. Back to gate. Powers that be, probably with input from our very experienced Captain, SW decided to off-load fuel and fly us to San Jose, where we would add fuel to get us to Kona. Very creative and forward thinking. Got to San Jose to refuel. Problem- fight crew and pilots were out of time. Had to wait for new crew. No problem- Captain and flight attendants were there quickly. No First Officer-flying in and had to wait for him to arrive and make it to our plane to take off. Still could not fix WiFi, so flew to Hawaii with not even SW movies to watch. Ugh! All in all, they did the best they could, but we were 8 hours later than scheduled arrival. Barely made it to our rental car before closing. Why did they not anticipate the heat in Las Vegas in advance? Certainly this is predictable? Southwest did say they would be crediting us miles, so will wait to see. We have flown Southwest for the last 5 years and go to Hawaii 2-3 times a year. Fortunately our flight back through Oakland went off without issues. May think about paying more to fly another carrier?

  2. I believe you are looking for the phrase: ran afoul. Although, thinking of a plane as a flying creature, a fowl, ran a fowl might just be very very clever.

  3. A very fair treatment of Southwest.Thank you! A treat for an exceptional attendant is always a welcome gift (my daughter is a SWA attendant and a box of chocolate covered macadamias is always welcome) I have to think the less conscientious and helpful attendants will notice when a great one is shown appreciation.

    1. Hi Dan.

      Thanks. It’s funny that you should mention the mac nuts for the flight attendants. When we mentioned that once before we took some heat from those who thought that was not a good practice.


  4. For me, I purchase Biz Select. My own experience is that the vast majority of A1-A15’s want to sit in those first few rows – unless already occupied by the ever increasing throngs of differently abled and seniors. For me, it’s the emergency exit rows! Stretch seating and free booze!

    One minor problem is if that inbound aircraft has already flown a number of legs with through passengers, then my emergency exit row strategy may not work. Then, I’ll just take an open middle in the emergency exit row and even with that, the couple in the row will usually want to “buddy up” with another leaving me an aisle or window.

    Purchased 60 days or more out, Biz Select will usually have much lower fares. If I need to cancel, totally refundable.

  5. FYI on SWA, the overhead bins in the first 3-4 rows are not as deep due to the tapering fuselage and cabin. My rollaboard fits wheels-first in bins no problem, except at the front of SWA 737’s. Not sure if this is still an issue on the 737 MAX used on most Hawaii flights.

  6. It is interesting and funny how some people can find any seat to sit in and make that decision for themselves, and want to make the decision. And then there are those who have to be told what to do, where to sit, and can’t make a decision where to sit, and don’t like making the simple decision where to sit. I prefer making my own choice where to sit and getting more of the overall services without extra charges, at consistently overall lower airfare.

  7. I flew from Lihue to Hilo via HNL this week, two of those flights were full, but just checking in at exactly 24 hours before departure snagged me an A29 and A36 spot… the two not full flights were like A19 and A23. I noted on all four flights, there were only 1 or 2 people in the A1-15 section. I guess on Inter island flights, no one spends extra to have a good seat for a 30 minute flight!

  8. Thanks, BOH, for your review of Southwest on a Hawaii flight – we haven’t used SW yet for Hawaii so I was very interested. I fly Southwest if the price is right and the schedule works for me. But that doesn’t happen as much anymore, compared to 10 or so years ago. I also have lifetime 1K status on United, so they will always be my first choice, given price and schedule. With Southwest, I am a maniac about checking in exactly 24 hours in advance to hopefully get a good boarding position. I used to pay for EB fairly often, but not as much since they upped the cost. If traveling with my husband, only one of us will get EB, and that person holds seats til the other one boards.

  9. IMO, that snack box thing on SW is ugly! Surely they could find something better. That SW boarding thing is what it is, you either love it or hate it, I’ve learned to deal with it. What I like about SW is its routing.


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