A point of great contention is whether adding a massive number of flights and new visitors, courtesy of Southwest, has been a good thing or bad for Hawaii. The responses we’ve seen here have varied considerably. From tremendous interest and anticipation before and during their arrival to a great deal of push-back in times since that 2019 launch. Here are some thoughts to get started. We’re excited to hear your input too.
On the positive side of Southwest Hawaii.
Prices from competitive destinations where Southwest Hawaii flights originate are among the cheapest anywhere and lower than we’ve seen in Hawaii in decades. That benefits us residents as much as it does visitors. It opened up new routes that had never existed for Hawaii visitors and brought others down to a very reasonable cost, sometimes less than $100 each way.
Honestly, residents, including us, had long ago given up on the idea of reasonably priced day trips to visit friends and family, go to appointments, or go shopping on other islands. Or visiting the mainland without high airfare costs. These flights had gotten to the point where they were just too expensive for many of us here. Since Southwest arrived, however, we are doing that traveling once again. If it hadn’t been for Southwest, interisland flights would cost multiple times more than they do now. There’s no doubt about that.
Not only that, but as we shared when we first tried and reviewed it, Southwest offers a high-quality Hawaii economy product that is arguably as good as or better than its competitors.
On the not-so-positive side of Southwest Hawaii.
Many more visitors are arriving, partly due to the presence of Southwest and the unending post-Covid Hawaii travel resurgence. Primarily as a result of their entry into Hawaii, the number of domestic airline seats has risen 20% compared to pre-Covid. Wow! That is according to the state Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism (DBEDT). It has brought Hawaii to the brink of inability to manage visitors, given the lack of proper infrastructure in Hawaii. From traffic and beaches to restaurants and more, coping with the sheer numbers is challenging.
Is any of this a reason to point fingers at Southwest? We’d say not. If Southwest had gotten to Hawaii sooner, which they would certainly have liked to have done, they’d have been part of the mix before it became so contentious. It seems mainly coincidental to us, their delayed timing, Covid, Hawaii over tourism, and revenge travel.
Southwest does things differently.
Southwest does things differently. They always have, and they always will. It starts with buying tickets, which can only be seen on the Southwest website. For example, other airlines list their airfares on Expedia, Booking, and Google Flights. Then too, you do not get assigned seats. That’s different and something that took some getting used to for us newbies. That aspect continues when you check in 24 hours in advance and receive a boarding position. And at the airport, when you line up by that position and march onto the plane in order with others in your same boarding group. It continues with an undifferentiated one-class economy, its own take on “snacks,” unique flight attendants, and more.
Also, while we have seen no data to support this, you’ve said in countless comments that Southwest is bringing different visitors to Hawaii than the legacy airlines flying here. Many more may be first-time Hawaii visitors, and they could also be ultra-economy paradigm visitors, which Hawaii infamously now shuns. Again, that is simply a hypothesis.