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Finding Deals Amid Competitive Battle | Hawaiian Airlines vs. Southwest Airlines

Hawaii is clearly in an enviable position as one of the world’s most in-demand, premium leisure destinations. So it makes sense that airlines would vie for dominion. Hawaiian has long reigned as Hawaii’s hometown carrier, but Southwest is fast encroaching on the territory.

And it isn’t just Southwest either, as Alaska, American, and United also stake out their own slice of island traffic. But we’ll focus on Southwest Airlines since, as you see, they present both the biggest competitive threat to bellwether Hawaiian Airlines, which will provide visitors the best opportunity for Hawaii deals.

There are 19 routes where Southwest competes head to head with Hawaiian Airlines.

Las Vegas to Honolulu. Maui.

Los Angeles to Honolulu. Kona. Maui. Kauai.

Long Beach to Honolulu. Maui  

Oakland to Honolulu. Maui. Kauai.

Phoenix to Honolulu and Maui.

San Jose to Honolulu. Maui.

Sacramento to Honolulu. Maui.

San Diego to Honolulu. Maui.

And that’s where you’ll find the best prices.

Competition always yields the best Hawaii deals, so we feel sure you can expect to find sales and the lowest prices on those routes above. Plan on one of those city pairs if you are looking for Cheap Flights to Hawaii.

Contrasting the differences and similarities. 

Food. Hawaiian provides complete complimentary meals, even including wine. Southwest provides only light snacks and beverages, so you’ll need to pack your own food for 5+ hour flights.

Checked bags. You’ll always get two free bags when flying Southwest. And that’s significant. On Hawaiian, expect to pay $25 for the first bag and $35 for the second bag. Multiply that times the number of people traveling and times two directions.

Seat assignments. On Hawaiian, you’ll be able to select seats at purchase, on all but their cheapest basic economy fares. On Southwest, there are no seat assignments. They do, however, offer a variety of premium pre-boarding options based on fares, elite status, and more. There is also a day of travel upgraded boarding available for $50 on flights to/from Hawaii.

Premium seating and classes of service. Southwest offers a single class of service. Hawaiian, however, offers premium economy seating with more legroom, early boarding, and other perks. They also offer business-class service (called first-class domestically) that includes comfortable lie-flat seating on A330 wide-body aircraft.

Economy seats. There is slightly more legroom on average flying Southwest vs. Hawaiian. The amount of difference to us, however, seems negligible. Seat width is typically comparable.

Loyalty programs and credit cards. Rapid Rewards and Hawaiian Miles are each unique, with Hawaiian’s being a more traditional miles-based offering, whereas Southwest’s is point and spending-based. Both companies also have branded credit cards that have perks and fees worth investigating.

We welcome your help in contrasting Southwest and Hawaiian and how you plan to take advantage of this burgeoning competition. 


31 thoughts on “Finding Deals Amid Competitive Battle | Hawaiian Airlines vs. Southwest Airlines”

  1. Thank you for your website! Such great information and helpful tips. We are flying to Maui out of Albuquerque end of February 2022 and are wanting to secure our plane tickets. Any idea with the current situation the best time to buy those tickets? I know things are very fluid but you are the experts and might know. Mahalo!

    1. Hi Robert.

      Thanks. For the end of February, you are probably going to find the best pricing in the early fall.


  2. Truthfully, I was just shocked to see a non-stop from SD to LIH on SWA. Until then, I did not know that SWA had non-stop service from SD to LIH. I was uncertain if BoH or other readers knew this either…maybe I was behind in the times? Either way, keep it up…you guys are great! Thank you

    1. Hi Rich.

      Thanks. Yes, that new service is great for multiple reasons, including that Southwest is building good connections from San Diego, such as Dallas.


  3. Thanks for the responses. I want to clarify. I am a retired person that flew often for work and pleasure. For the person that thought I was a SWA shill, that is an error. After 40+ years of experience with SWA and HA, SWA consistently has good service and systems. They are the only major airline that has never penalized for changing flights. They are also the only airline that does not charge for checking bags. HA has wonderful in air employees, but their Reservation systems are poor. They are still poor.

  4. BoH…been following for years. Thank you for your great info.
    Maybe a new fare/itinerary, but I just booked a SWA flight non-stop from SD to LIH. The price was great too at $139 in Nov.
    Keep up your excellent work! Mahalo

    1. Hi Rich.

      Thanks for your comment, and for being a regular follower and first-time commenter. Yes, that’s a great price.


  5. Please consider the major difference between Southwest and Hawaiian Airlines. From 40 years of experience, HA has an inferior reservation system. It is unreliable and frequently down. See the comments from others about being unable to reserve for past weeks using miles. HA charges for baggage is a large penalty too. Southwest always has attentive service and good spirited employees. The SWA reservation system it took notch. Despite not having seat assignments, SWA always boards in half the time because their system is more efficient.

    1. LOL Joel, you sound like an SWA employee trying to take shots at Hawaiian and it sounds a little like the local vs tourist silliness elsewhere on here.
      I received an email from Hawaiian (I’m a frequent Flyer member) the other day and they apologized for the reservation snafu’s they have had recently. There was so much demand in a very short period of time that it essentially overwhelmed their reservation system and app. Not good of course but understandable…. hardly indicative of a long term problem. I’m sure once it’s addressed it will be just fine. Hawaiian has a very long reputation for outstanding service. To try and say differently says more about you then Hawaiian.

  6. SWA is bringing much needed competition to Hawaii. Two free bags & the ability to pick you seats is huge. Our family has flown on SWA twice to HI, and on inter-island flights as well. They are a good airline, that does a really good job!

  7. Finally, been waiting a long time for some competition for direct flights from Phoenix…

  8. This current fare war reflects the reason to disband the Hawaii Tourism Authority. Hawaii has been able to sell itself over the past century. It is no longer necessary to have another bureaucracy in the State Govt. The counties, airlines and hotels are able to market Hawaii vacations themselves.

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