Updated 3/4/19. Southwest Hawaii inter-island Flights were announced today and Southwest Hawaii deals are now available.
News from our sources today on just how and when Southwest inter-island flights will roll out. When we met with Southwest Executive VP Andy Watterson last summer, he said that flights would arrive in Hawaii from the mainland on one day, spend the next flying inter-island and then return to the mainland on the third day. In other words, a three day rotation. Andy recently added, “we see that big (inter-island) market with higher price points and it’s short haul, which is what we’re known for.”
1. When will Southwest Hawaii inter-island start? Flights between Honolulu and Maui will be starting by early April, and will be part of the initial roll-out of Southwest Hawaii flights.
2. Inter-island routes and frequency. We’ve seen indication that inter-island will consist of four to eight flight segments per day, at the beginning. Those will start as flights between Honolulu and Maui, and soon thereafter expand to Kona, Lihue, and then Hilo.
3. Inter-island aircraft. Southwest will use their Boeing 737-800 aircraft for inter-island flights. Those accommodate 175 passengers, or approximately 50 more than Hawaiian Airlines‘ 717’s. In their all-economy configuration, Southwest will have 32 inches of seat pitch in a 3×3 configuration, whereas the Hawaiian fleet has 30-31 inches of pitch in a 3×2 configuration. That information according to Seat Guru.
4. What prices do we expect to see? While Southwest Hawaii inter-island may be a minor component in overall competition, it will still be enough of a force to bring prices down significantly. We will go out on a limb and predict best fares on both carriers could drop to the $39 range.
5. Southwest planes are mainland based. There will not be a separate fleet of aircraft for Hawaii inter-island service, either now or in the future. As a result, no separate Hawaii maintenance or crew base should be required.
One concern a mainland based inter-island fleet raises, is that Southwest inter-island flights might have some degree of reduced punctuality. Should a mainland flight be late, which can happen due to a range of issues including weather, winds, etc., that could impact follow-on inter-island flights. That in contrast to Hawaiian’s huge inter-island fleet that is based here in Hawaii. Those of us who live here, and visitors too, rely on that on-time dependability. One way the initial Southwest schedule appears to deal with that potential issue, is to segregate inter-island flights to be on the 2nd day of the rotation only.
6. Southwest Hawaii personnel. Honolulu and Kahului airports are staffed by Southwest employees. At Lihue and Kona, however, staffing will be a mix of a limited number of Southwest employees with the remainder being contracted from local companies. That is similar to what Alaska Airlines does in Hawaii.
7. Is there any issue with 737’s flying short hop Hawaii inter-island flights? In a nutshell, 737 can easily fly inter-island, it just can’t do it all day, every day, the way the Hawaiian 717 fleet can. This relates to addition engine stress created by these rapid short cycles, especially in our island weather conditions. When we asked Southwest about it last year, they stated emphatically that flying inter-island flights will not be any problem for the 737 fleet. Period. And that’s how we understand it too.
See our latest updates on Southwest Hawaii flights.