Unexpected Dynamics Unfold On Hawaii Flights With New Fees

Southwest Hawaii Flights: Prices for Boarding Options Hiked to 400%

Travelers planning to fly to the islands on popular Southwest Hawaii flights will now face significantly higher costs as the airline increases fees. The cost for its EarlyBird Check-In and Upgraded Boarding services will now be higher than ever before.

This comes as part of Southwest’s strategy to find new means of enhancing revenue through ancillary services without eliminating core perks for which it is famous.

Details of the Price Increases on Southwest Hawaii flights.

The cost for EarlyBird Check-In has been going up over time. But now, it will escalate from a maximum rate of $25 to a variable amount up to $99 per person on each flight. That’s an increase of up to 396% to be exact. The fee charged will depend on the distance of the flight and demand for seats. Thus expect to see Hawaii flights at the top tier of this new pricing.

EarlyBird lets you secure your boarding position 36 hours before the flight, which is before regular check-in begins at 24 hours prior.

Upgraded Boarding, which is higher performing, guarantees that passengers will be among the very first to board (ahead of EarlyBird). That price will jump from a top price of $80 to a maximum of $149 per flight.

These changes represent a substantial increase in costs for travelers, particularly on longer flights to Hawaii, and for those flying in groups or families.

Market dynamics have changed.

These latest fee increases are a response to Southwest charging what it believes the market will bear, and the fact that these offerings, from our own observations, especially for EarlyBird Check-In on Hawaii flights, are extremely popular. Southwest is looking for ways to improve its financial situation.

The price increases from Southwest could influence how travelers choose Hawaii flights and what services they decide to pay for. As the overall airline industry continues to adjust its pricing strategies, passengers will need to be more vigilant about the total cost of their travel.

Southwest’s unique boarding process remains without assigned seating.

While Southwest may be considering at least some assigned seating in the future, at this time it does not offer any. Passengers are given boarding positions based largely on their check-in time and if they purchased EarlyBird or Upgraded Boarding.

Even with EarlyBird, good seats using this method are not guaranteed, and we in fact have still found ourselves among the last to board a Southwest Hawaii flight, even after paying for EarlyBird. That is because there is no cap on how many EarlyBird Check-In’s Southwest sells per flight. That, while Upgraded Boarding is limited and if you purchase it, you are assured an top boarding position.

Is Southwest still the cheapest choice for Hawaii flights?

That is definitely not always the case or even most times. With that said, Southwest still offers two free bags. That’s a savings of $80 or more per person compared to other airlines.

5-Year Showdown Spurs Hawaiian/Southwest Sale Amid Tourism Slump

Southwest’s new identity is rolling out.

Southwest Airlines has already said that it plans for the imminent introduction of Hawaii red-eye flights amidst its broader shift in strategy. We reported recently having paid very high airfares on Southwest from Hawaii, while taking some consolation in the fact that the bags came along for no additional cost.

Others have commented that Southwest has strayed from its low-cost heritage.

Ryanair’s outspoken leader openly criticized Southwest for moving away from its roots including combining their inclusive fare structure with a generous two-checked bag allowance. He commented on steadily increasing average airfares marking a move away from the company’s founding principles and towards more mainstream airline industry practices.

See: Is Southwest Still Hawaii’s Low-Cost Airline?

Southwest’s changes include moving further from a legacy of disruptive low-cost airfares that were once game-changing. We pointed out that even the company’s recent ad campaigns have lacked traditional cost-saving messaging.

Southwest also just moved away from its long-standing refusal to appear on Google Flights.

It’s been just a week since Southwest made another big directional change when the airline began to provide its flights and pricing for booking directly via Google Flights.

But even with that change, the airline is still, at least for now, maintaining a direct customer service approach, since Google Flights redirects directly to Southwest, unlike Expedia for example.

Upcoming Hawaii red-eye flights from Southwest.

In what is a response to Boeing delivery delays and a need to maximize fleet utilization, it appears Southwest will move sooner than expected to offer Hawaii red-eye flights.

Southwest’s further changes in response to various challenges it faces are something we will continue to monitor in relation to its Hawaii flights as these decisions shape the future of Southwest Hawaii flights.

Will all the changes at Southwest damage the airline’s long-standing and unique value proposition that has positioned it well since it started flights to Hawaii five years ago?

Hat tip to Danny the Deal Guru for informing us of this change we confirmed on the Southwest website (screenshot above).

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23 thoughts on “Southwest Hawaii Flights: Prices for Boarding Options Hiked to 400%”

  1. Leave the tourist penny less before the next person gets the chance. I was warned of this tactic when visiting Oahu. Maybe Southwest is following suit in response to hotel price gouging and drop in tourism to the islands.

  2. I live near Austin, Texas and fly Southwest for flights of 2.5 hours or less. Don’t mind the boarding process. Sometimes the seats are uncomfortable and that’s why I limit my flights to the above mentioned duration. I can fly to Cancun in 2.5 hours. We used to fly to the Islands yearly, but see no reason to travel there when there are so many other user friendly options.

  3. Aloha,
    I have never flown on Southwest. Their whole program strikes me as a very poorly orchestrated game show. I purchase a seat in advance, and when I show up, my prepaid seat is waiting. Quite simple and stress free. Nobody likes baggage fees, but charging for cattle car boarding priority certainly seems like equivalent gouging. Interesting that Southwest’s predatory behavior in the Hawaiian marketplace does not seem to be working for them…

  4. They are just getting you prepared to get ripped off, victimized, in the Aloha style way. Pay alot for nothing. What’s new.

  5. “Prices for Boarding Options Hiked to 400%” — a wee bit misleading as it doesn’t necessarily apply to Hawaii Southwest flights. If you read other travel related websites on the Southwest changes, they are not so alarmist as posted here. We will just have to see what the actual changes, if any, are to Hawaii flights.

  6. I am flying SWA to Kauai in less than 2 weeks… dreading the flight on SWA and the boarding process, on the plus side all my points will be used up, so I will have no reason to ever fly with them again.

    Also… ditto to Di’s comment, it is unbelievable how many people board with a wheelchair, then by some miracle are able to walk off the plane. SWA really needs to consider charging extra for the first 10 rows and assigning seats in those rows to eliminate early boarding with wheelchairs, etc. to get the best seats.

  7. I’ll fly SW on flights lasting 3 – 3.5 hours but no more than that which precludes Hawaii. The seats are just too uncomfortable for me. Can’t really put my finger on it, too narrow to begin with, hard, with bad contours for my bad back? Decent recline though… I’ll continue with the upgraded boarding though. I think it’s worth it…

    Best regards

  8. I tried SWA once from the big island to Honolulu. they treat you little better than cattle. It was the worst boarding experience. Practically no service. I will never use them again.

  9. I fly Wn quite often and on the past 2 Hawaii trips noticed something.
    I was in the C group and there were only a few others lined up. Appears the entire C group had early boarded (family’s,,wchrs,military)

  10. Someone has to pay for the outrageous union contract they just signed. At this point, unions are simply extortionists. What other job has protection from being fired and guaranteed a raise, regardless of performance? I don’t get one!

  11. Another sad result of the failure of Hawaiian Airlines and the proposed takeover by Alaska.
    Prices are going through the roof as airlines collude to reduce competition.
    Very hard on locals that need to travel interisland.

  12. Southwest is loosing money so of course prices will go up.
    Even worse, they keep using old outdated flight management

    1. Aloha. I first flew 50 years ago, and have always found that the back of the plane arrives at the same time as the front, so I won’t pay any fees. Overall, it appears the governor’s well laid out plan is working. Fewer tourists, Hawaiian plane on the tarmac for 2 days broken down. Didn’t they even consider putting people on other flights? No STR’s, expensive rooms, and more! The most disgusting thing is time slots for everything you want to do. Watching the clock is too much like a job! I want a vacation, but this all feels like the last man in the Keystone Cops comedy. Aloha, and good luck with it all.

  13. This was okay when it was $15 and even when it was $25. But for $99 I don’t think so. There are so many other pre-boarding issues too that generally make getting on nerve-wracking.

  14. Unfortunately Hawaii continues to stab itself in the foot in decreasing the amount of tourists that visit their islands who give millions of dollars in revenue to them. Doing away with short term rentals (condos), forcing tourists to stay in high price hotels and raising airline prices, spells doom for Hawaii. Good luck!

  15. Does anyone know why Southwest does not offer the option of purchasing Early Bird or Upgraded boarding with Reward points?

  16. With these increases I’m not sure what the appeal of Southwest is. I flew them a couple times and – hate to say it – but it’s such a ghetto airline. The nickel and diming, the open seating, many of the passengers are, uh, interesting folks – though I do remember the FAs being really nice.

    After flying United, Alaskan, and Hawaiian to the islands many times, my pick with always be Hawaiian. Never had a bad experience and I appreciate that they still have their entertainment centers, a small meal, and Aloha spirit.

    1. there is just something about flying Hawaiian airlines to Hawaii .. maybe it’s just the aloha spirit when you first get on the plane, the attendants tropical clothing, the pineapple cookie .. but I’d rather fly them to Hawaii than Southwest anyday. Southwest is a cattle car; plus they are notorious for changing flights/cancelling on you. My son was to fly out to HI from SFO and Southwest changed it to be rerouted through Las Vegas and he had to spend an additional few hours there. These new fees are just their way of not charging for two bags.

    2. I like SW. Free surfboards. 2″ extra legroom than Hawaiian and almost everyone, even on mainland flights. Easy to cancel or change flights. Kind of silly, but great attitude. SW has seemingly caused Hawaiian to be nicer and change their policy’s.

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