Seamless! Southwest Hawaii Review Reprise

We’ve just flown round-trip on Southwest between Kauai and Honolulu as we review a range of flights across the airlines that fly to Hawaii, It’s been nearly 18 months since BOH editors last flew on Southwest interisland, and we wanted to see for ourselves just how well and consistently their unique product is being delivered here in Hawaii.

BOH also flew on Southwest to and from Las Vegas in addition to this week’s flights. In a nutshell, the product is quirky as all get-out. Totally unique in the industry. And it delivered with aplomb. Please read the details of our review and share your own thoughts on Southwest Hawaii flights.

Southwest is, if nothing else, unique among US airlines. We can still report that there’s absolutely nothing objectionable or “second class” about Southwest. We actually quite like the experience, especially for short flights like within Hawaii. Between the mainland and Hawaii, editor Jeff is a seasoned travel snob and prefers to either employ his three seat economy trick or fly business class, leaving Southwest out of his mix.

Early check-in. N/A

After previously buying Early Bird check-in to try it out, with moderate success, this round, we did not buy either that or Early Boarding. Those range in cost from $25 each per flight and up.

For those of you who aren’t Southwest regulars, Early Bird checks you in 36 hours before the flight and gives you a better (albeit unknown) boarding position. The other option, called Early Boarding, costs significantly more, of up to $80. This means you have better control of where you sit on the flight and assures more overhead storage access.

Cost: 10/10.

BOH editors paid $49 per passenger in each direction. That was about as cheap as could be found in the market at this time. Again, however, considering the value of the two checked bags, it offers a strong value. Unless you are a co-branded credit card holder or have premium status, Hawaiian charges $25/$35 for first/second checked bags interisland.

Customer service: N/A

Everything was handled easily online, and there was no further interaction needed.

Check-in: N/A

Because we both traveled with only carry-on bags, there was no luggage check-in required. We proceeded directly to TSA PreCheck. As an aside, when you leave from Honolulu, make sure you enter the correct ticketing lobby for Southwest. It’s also worth noting that your check-in bags will clear agriculture at the gate when you depart from Lihue. That was a surprise, but it made sense because you are arriving on the other side of ag inspection in Honolulu. We assume this also to be true when flying Southwest Interisland from Big Island and Maui.

Boarding: 10/10.

We are now quite familiar with their unique boarding system. Some others did not and started asking those more familiar for help. We got in line in the order of our boarding positions, and then an entire boarding line entered rather rapidly, all at once, thirty people at a time, in that order.

In comparing the boarding process of Southwest and Hawaiian, we are both largely neutral about it. While it is nice to have assigned seats a la Hawaiian, not having them hasn’t been a problem either. Once again, boarding on Southwest was quick, effective, and orderly.

On-time Performance: 10/10.

Once again, everything was precise as per the schedule. Boarding on both flights started almost exactly 30 minutes before flight time. The boarding door closed about 5 minutes before, and the flight departed the gate at the specified departure time.

Southwest Hawaii interisland water service

Food and beverage: 9/10.

How Southwest handles snacks and the lack of any food options is irrelevant on short, under 30-minute flights interisland. While Hawaiian goes one step further and offers either water or POG drink, Southwest offers only water. It was served by a very friendly flight attendant who seemed genuinely happy to be helping. We’ll knock off one point for lack of POG, although water is certainly a far healthier choice than what is largely sugar water.

Aircraft: 10/10.

The 737 MAX8 planes are new, extremely quiet, and everything is clean and modern. The flight attendants activated four different lighting modes, clear, blue, purple and orange, that were really fun to watch.

After writing about terrible aircraft lavatories, Jeff decided to take a stroll to the back and check this one out. Compared with the United 737 MAX, with its space-saving compact lavatories, this Southwest MAX 8 lavatory seemed to be several inches wider, which definitely felt different and better. Note to self – we’re packing a tape measure for future lavatory comparisons.

There was a slight anomaly on the return flight. Jeff asked the pilot sitting in the next row about why the plane was so hot prior to and during takeoff. He said that he’d seen the ground crew disconnect the air conditioning tube too soon, which had resulted in the cabin very quickly getting overheated. Once the plane was in the air, it started to cool dramatically. Seated across the aisle from the two SW pilots was an Alaska Airlines pilot who was on vacation.

Wifi/texting: N/A

Southwest offers unlimited $8 satellite WiFi even on short interisland flights. For less than a half-hour, however, we both decided it wasn’t even worth the time or money to get it going.

Flight attendants: 10/10

Once again, we’re either very lucky, or there’s something to the Southwest Hawaii flight attendants being unusually kind and friendly. They are pleasant, helpful, industrious, and generally funny. Jeff asked about going to the lav while the fasten seat belt sign was on. For what it’s worth, the seat belt signs were never turned off during the short flight. The flight attendant said that while she couldn’t authorize it, she wouldn’t prevent it either, and if the need was urgent, it was okay to go. Wanting to get a quick photo of the lav and see its size, Jeff was only gone about one minute before buckling back in.

Cockpit crew interaction: 10/10.

The captain came on before the doors closed for the first announcement and welcome. The captain also announced that there were two other pilots flying in the cabin and that if we had any questions, we were directed to ask them. Another announcement followed take-off, although for some reason, we had a hard time hearing.

Seating and comfort: 10/10

With new seats, and legroom more than other airlines provide in economy, notably Hawaiian Airlines’ interisland flights, it was a very comfortable ride. We will say that on trans-Pacific flights we flew previously, we noted that the seats are thin and the padding inadequate for good 5+ hour comfort.

Power: AC/USB: N/A

There is still no electrical or USB power anywhere on these planes. Starting this year, Southwest began to provide USB A and USB C at every seat. That’s a needed addition, which we have yet to see. Given the very short flight duration, we didn’t knock Southwest for this the way we would have between the mainland and Hawaii.

Post-flight survey: 10/10

The same day as the flight, Southwest sent a survey. Because it asked for confidentiality with the questions asked, Jeff declined to complete the survey inasmuch as he’d be writing about it here.

Scoring: 99 out of 100.

The only shortcoming we found, not serious on a very short flight, was the lack of USB or AC power. Otherwise, these were both excellent flights, albeit without POG.

Where BOH will be flying next.

Beat of Hawaii is flying a lot to and from Hawaii. In the next two weeks, look for reviews of United Airlines premium-economy widebody service, and Alaska Airlines first class.

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9 thoughts on “Seamless! Southwest Hawaii Review Reprise”

  1. Aloha BOH,

    We fly SW frequently on the mainland and recently flew to Maui from Sacramento/Las Vegas on SW. We were impressed with the leg room on the 737 Max 8 although seats felt narrow to us. The flights departed on time and we arrived 30 minutes early. We spent more time time waiting for our luggage in Maui, but that was the only drawback. We always bring our own food but the snacks were substantial enough. We got a great price on fares, so there was no comparison with other airlines.

  2. We have used SW our last two trips to Kauai. We very much like the airline! We did use the early bird boarding. IMO there is no food on SW, they do have drinks. Service was excellent and everything was timely. You will either love or hate their boarding process.

  3. Glad you had a great Southwest Experience. I haven’t on my last three Southwest Flights. Southwest dispatched three aircraft to the gate that the pilot rejected due to maintenance / mechanical issues. 8 Hours Later, the fourth aircraft fourth aircraft had just and became our aircraft, delaying others. The return flight was delayed two hours, on a one hour trip. The last one was Kona to Honolulu, there were barely any people in the boarding area. The flight was cancelled and we were rebooked on the next departure. Unfortunately, we had dinner plans, with friends from the mainland, 15 minutes after the new arrival time. So we got our bags back from Southwest, and bought two tickets at the counter and arrived in time for dinner.

  4. Aloha BOH Bro’s

    Arrived yesterday on BI via Hawaiian Airlines out of Sacramento with short layover at OGG.

    The flight couldn’t have been more perfect cabin crew were on first leg of a 15 hour day interesting to see how fresh they’d be on their third leg.

    Inter island on 717 was fine the flight is so short crew were friendly yes plane showing signs of wear, but never felt unsafe.

  5. Aloha Boh!

    Nice to see that BOH is getting up to speed with what most of us mainlanders are already familiar with – Southwest sets the bar on their product, experience, service and quality.

    If Hawaiian didn’t completely fail on their upgrade and app rollout, then they could even “beat” Southwest at their own game. But they skimped and created an absolute abysmal customer experience. Who wants to call a call center for 40 minutes just to cancel? So 2001. And where’s all my refund money on tickets at? I can just login to SWA and see them, then resuse them later. It’s brilliant.

    Mahalo from Norcal!

  6. Sorry to rain on your SW love in, but it will Never be an option for me. We live in South Central Texas and I’m 6’3″.
    Hawaiian Airlines Austin- HNL non-stop can’t be beat. Extra Comfort makes it a very comfortable 8 hour flight, and then an easy connection to LIH and on to our condo in Princeville. Been flying Hawaiian for decades and not about to abandon them for the “Texas based flying Greyhound Bus!”
    When we fly within Texas, SW is Never an option. No seat assignments, cattle car feeling, no first class, Economy Plus, or Main Cabin Extra. Southwest’s fun in the air in flight crew can’t make up for its other glaring shortcomings IMO, sorry.

  7. WOW! You hit the nail on its head!
    Just returned from LAS to LIH. I would have said the exact same things you have mentioned for your interisland flight. I kept searching for a “word” to explain how I felt about SW. Unique …in a very positive way. They are truly amazing.
    I use to travel all the time with SW when living in CA & did not even think about comparing. Just airfares & convenience of their gates were my choice to fly with them.
    Yes…the employees are All very pleasant…knowledgable…kind…considerate. I once heard from a friend who was flying same flight as my son. He said…they sang Happy Birthday to your son on the flight! Amazing.
    Thank you for the write up…hopefully your comments will spread.

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