We continue to receive many visitor questions and comments about the when, what, where, and how much of Southwest Hawaii flights. We thought additional flights to and from Kauai, San Diego and Sacramento, plus nonstop flights to Kona would have been announced already. So now what?
But first, if you didn’t know, Southwest flights between Oakland and Maui started yesterday. The airport is offering all Hawaii bound travelers on Alaska, Hawaiian and Southwest 4 days of free parking ($96 value) from May through Labor Day.
Latest Southwest Hawaii Updates
1. What’s the delay and when will San Diego, San Jose, Sacramento, Lihue and Kona (nonstop) flights be announced plus more inter-island flights?
We still expect more routes, and perhaps all of those that are listed above, to be announced by the end of this month, and possibly sooner. As we noted over the weekend, that release may contain somewhat less than we had heard. The routes should still start by summer, but there may just be fewer flights and fewer non-stops for now. This information is critical for those of you planning a Hawaii summer vacation and we can’t wait to know more. The delay may in part be related to the Max 8 aircraft grounding, with some of the Hawaii 737-800 planes needed elsewhere. The rest of the Hawaii roll-out, including Las Vegas, Phoenix and Denver, could also now take longer than anticipated.
Before the last Max 8 crash, the company was positioned to announce more flights and more Southwest Hawaii deals. While Southwest said that the Max problem did not complicate their Hawaii plans, there have been persistent rumors to the contrary. We don’t know when those grounded planes will be returned to service, but Southwest has taken them off their flight schedule through May at this point. We also don’t know when Southwest hopes to start flying the Max 8 to Hawaii. They are using ETOPS certified 737-800 aircraft at this time.
2. Why aren’t flights bookable from points further east than Denver and when will they be?
That is because Southwest doesn’t have red-eye (overnight) flights. It is something that the airline has talked about changing, but from what we’ve been told, that could be many months to years away. There are logistical and staffing issues to address before those can start, although the airline’s reservation system was already updated to allow for them. When overnight flights do happen, that should make Hawaii accessible (without multiple tickets and a layover) from points further east across the U.S. CEO Gary Kelly said, “we don’t really desire to fly red-eyes right now…. for our style of operation, it would complicate things.” Red eye flights are used by other airlines flying from Hawaii to enable the long flights and up to 6 time zones between Hawaii and the eastern US.
When you attempt to book city pairs that require two separate SW tickets to Hawaii, you’ll get a message that looks something like this: “Sorry, we found some errors… Flights from Minneapolis/St. Paul to Honolulu (Oahu) are not scheduled to operate on mm/dd/yy. Please select an alternate date or choose another origination/destination.” That is your cue that two tickets are needed for now.
3. Do more Southwest Hawaii deals lie ahead for summer and fall?
This weekend we also posted about the reported 17% drop in prices so far this year due to the Southwest effect on Hawaii airfares.
Yes, there still will be summer and fall deals coming. We’ve already had two occurrences of $99 and less one-way fares to Hawaii this year. There are three triggers that will spur future deals. Those are when additional routes are first announced, when Southwest wants to move more Hawaii inventory, and when other airlines respond to these events. This will happen again, so yes, more deals lie ahead. Don’t despair. They may be slower to occur than we once hoped, but at the same time they could be more prolonged.
Hawaiian Airlines will compete on mainland and inter-island routes and Alaska Airlines will join in mainland fare wars. American, Delta and United will take part as well. We are looking for intermittent mainland to Hawaii fares starting under $100 each way and inter-island fares in the $30’s each way.
4. When will tickets become available for dates beyond November 2, including the holidays?
On May 23, the next Southwest schedule update is planned. That will include travel through January 5, 2020 including Hawaii flights.
What’s coming up, as of April 8, 2019
April 28, 2019
✈ Inter-island flights between Honolulu and Maui start
By end of April, 2019
✈ Announcement of additional routes trans-Pacific and inter-island
May 5, 2019
✈ Flights between San Jose and Honolulu start
May 12, 2019
✈ Inter-island flights between Honolulu and Kona start
✈ Flights between Oakland and Kona start (connecting service)
✈ Flights between San Jose and Kona start (connecting service)
May 23, 2019
✈ Southwest schedule update for flights through January 5, 2020
May 26, 2019
✈ Flights between San Jose and Maui start
June 1, 2019 or later
✈ Southwest 737 Max 8 flights resume
What comes after that?
✈ Flights to and from Los Angeles. Possibly later this year.
✈ Addition of inter-island and mainland flights to Hilo. Possibly later this year.
✈ Flights from Phoenix, Las Vegas and later, Denver to Hawaii. Perhaps not until 2020.
While these additional routes could come at any time, Phoenix, Las Vegas and Denver will come last.
Food, drink, entertainment and WiFi on-board.
Southwest is offering free food in the form of two snack services. One soon after take-off and another two hours before landing, much like the snack boxes SWA had on longer flights years ago. The main post-departure service features a snack bag that includes crackers, pretzels, cheese spread, Tic-Tacs and fruit snacks. The second service consists of Pepperidge Farm cookies. There is no other food for sale so if snacks aren’t your thing, be sure to have food with you before boarding.
2. Hawaii-style beverages.
Island drink offerings include pineapple/orange juice, Kona Longboard beer and Blue Chair Bay (Caribbean) rum.
3. Entertainment. The SWA inflight entertainment portal is active on Hawaii flights. That includes flight tracker, gate information, games, free live TV, on-demand TV, free movies and messaging.
3. WiFi on Hawaii flights. The airline is offering $8 Wi-Fi for the entire flight. Southwest satellite Wi-Fi on Hawaii flights provides gate to gate connectivity. Just don’t forget a charger/battery pack, as their aircraft do not have any charging capability.
Hawaii flights will for now remain on ETOPS certified 737-800 aircraft, as are being used by some other carriers for flights to Hawaii. Once issues are resolved, they will transition to ETOPS certified 737 MAX 8 and perhaps 737 MAX 7. The latter brings cities like Denver into range.
Southwest’s unique one-class service paradigm will remain unchanged according to CEO Gary Kelly. That includes:
Two free checked bags.
No seat assignments.
$25 Early Bird Check-in provides the option of automatic check-in before the 24-hour check-in and offers an earlier boarding position for a better chance of seat selection and access to overhead storage.
Updated April 8, 2019.