The Cost For Good Seats on Southwest Hawaii Soars

The Cost For Good Seats on Southwest Hawaii Soars

If you’re a fan of what may well be the best economy-class service to the islands, that being Southwest Hawaii flights, prepare for some sticker shock today. The airline has significantly raised the cost of its version of paid seat assignments.

This follows Southwest receiving the highest marks of any airline in economy class, which WalletHub reported on their customer satisfaction survey. Hawaiian Airlines was unfortunately not included in the study of only national (not regional brands).

Based on our own independent review of Southwest Hawaii flights, we concur with WalletHub and believe they would have retained that position even had Hawaiian Airlines been included. On the other hand, and at the diametrically opposed end of their study, which is business class, our experience is that Hawaiian is at the very top of the pack.

Beat of Hawaii will be doing more reviews from our unique on-the-ground in Hawaii perspective this week and throughout the upcoming summer months.

Southwest’s equivalent to paid seat assignments.

Southwest doesn’t have seat assignments, which they’ve long practiced and apparently will forevermore because of the improvement in aircraft turn time that provides them. You put yourself into any available seat, which saves valuable time.

If you, like us, loathe sitting in middle seats (we have one very social friend who actually prefers those – lucky her), Southwest offers “EarlyBird Check-In” to get a better boarding number before your flight.

Those top boarding positions are first given to people who pay for Southwest’s Business Select. But when those aren’t taken, they are sold during check-in.

When editor Jeff flew from Hawaii to the mainland recently, he purchased an EarlyBird check-in to try it out. That allows check-in 36 hours in advance. For $25, he got on early enough to select an aisle seat near the front of the plane. Not bad. The other option, Upgraded Boarding, was available for $50 (now $80), which moves you into the very first A1-15 boarding group if available.

Now the cost of a top-seat pick on Southwest increased by 60%.

Based on an internal memo reviewed by a reliable source, Southwest said it would now charge $80 for Hawaii flights when you want Upgraded Boarding. That’s an increase of 60% compared with the prior $50 price. $80 is the maximum price Southwest charges, and that fee is based on distance and demand.

Following is the official statement from Southwest:

Upgraded Boarding is one of Southwest’s most popular ancillary products, allowing Customers the option to buy an upgraded boarding position in Group A1-A15 (when available). We’ve shared with our Employees that Upgraded Boarding now will be offered in a variable range of $30 to $80. Upgraded Boarding price points will work the same as they do today whereby prices can vary based on the length and popularity of each flight. Price points within the new range are subject to change at any time, as they do today. We hope our Customers continue to enjoy this product.

Unlike less frequent travelers, Southwest Chase premium credit cardholders may remain immune to the cost. These cards reimburse Upgraded Boarding up to 4x per year.

Southwest didn’t announce any change to the current $25 charge for EarlyBird check-in, although we suspect that will be coming next.

Do you choose either of Southwest’s improved boarding position options on Hawaii flights?

Hat tip: View From The Wing.

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14 thoughts on “The Cost For Good Seats on Southwest Hawaii Soars”

  1. I don’t use SW when I fly. I tried them a while back, not impressed with the “herd” boarding. I like to pick my seat, (business class) and board early. When you add in all the extra fees, the uncertainty of where you will sit and the seat you finally get, and the frustration of it all, it is about the same as an upgraded seat with other airlines.

    Eventually, they will price themselves out of the economy airline category.

    1. I’m not sure what you mean about “all the extra fees.” Two free checked bags plus 2 free carry-ons is a reason many of us choose southwest. I’m normally a light traveler but take items to family.) the boarding system doesn’t seem much different than other airlines where you board in groups. Overall, my experience with flight attendants is mo bettah on Southwest than Hawaiian, which is sad, because Hawaiian used to make you feel special even before take-off.

  2. The airport/flying experience has become nothing short of the worse experience of vacationing. Cancelled or delayed flights the norm, lost luggage, Karens and crazies.
    Airlines crashing computers, while maximizing packed flights and the almighty buck, all while subsidized by our taxes!
    And those precious milage points? more worthless by the hour.
    Safe travels,indeed.

  3. I paid the $25 for early check-in. I was in A50 group. Glad I did because the plane was completely full. Had many choices of seats but not in the front or exit rows. Enjoyed the extra leg room that Hawaiian doesn’t have in coach. Flew direct from Kona to Las Vegas. Hawaiian should fly more direct flights to avoid Holualoa delays. Everything is going up with labor getting paid more.

    1. Front row and exit rows are best, but that’s true if all airplanes made by Boeing and Airbus.

      Seats are the same but legroom isn’t. It’s all about that, isn’t it?

  4. Purchased business class, held number 3. There were 10 people already on the plane and they were saving seats. I understand a handicapped person should be able to save One seat for their assistance, not 5 or 6 for their entire travel group.

  5. Aloha BOH! I fly southwest primarily as I rack up points with there Chase Visa card. Last year my honeymoon trip to wakiki from OAK round trip for both of us was on points. I do pay extra for early boarding as I am 6’5″ and mostly legs, so getting an exit row is important to me. 80% of the time the early bird boarding accomplishes that for me so I dont pay extra for their so called business class seating. Thank for you all you do,I enjoy your newsletter immensely. Keep up the good work! Mahalo..

    1. Flying Hawaiian you’re statically more likely to incur a delay. Worse, your flight may be cancelled. It’s more expensive, with higher than average “issues” leading to lateness. If that’s what you’re looking for, knock yourself out.

  6. I’ll take my chances. The flights I’m on are rarely full so I usually don’t have to share an armrest and even if I do, I’m not paying extra for that seat. I’m a normal-size person and am so grateful to be flying to Hawaii, I’ll take a small inconvenience.

  7. This is not a good time for Southwest to be ratcheting up these prices. These perks – especially A1-15 – are purchased by their most frequent fliers, and that audience is still reeling from brand damage during the December fiasco and some other difficulties since. I’m among them.

    We are flying to Maui in Augustcand this is unwelcome news.

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