by Paul Thompson
On Wednesday evening, Dallas-based Southwest Airlines announced they plan to begin flying to Hawaii in the near future. The airline broke the news in two ways. First, they shared the news to a crowd of thousands of employees who were attending a “Spirit Party” at Universal Studios Hollywood. The company holds Spirit Parties annually in places like Las Vegas or at theme parks around the country. On Twitter, Southwest responded to a tweet from 2008 in which the tweeter asked Southwest when they plan to start flying to Hawaii.
Southwest has said tickets to Hawaii will go on sale in 2018, but gave no other details about the start of service or which cities or islands they’ll serve. If I were to place a bet, I would expect them to start flying to Honolulu (HNL) and Maui (OGG) from San Diego, Oakland, and perhaps Seattle.
There’s no doubt that SWA will use its brand new Boeing 737 MAX for these long, overwater flights. As I’ve written before, the 737 MAX is a comfortable and much more quiet ride than many planes currently flying from the West Coast to Hawaii, but some may find the amenities on Southwest to be a bit of a bummer, if they’re used to some other airlines. Southwest offers on-demand TV and movies through its Wi-Fi system, but there are no charging outlets on their planes, and no meals served other than peanuts, pretzels and other light snacks. My suggestion is to bring an auxiliary power pack onboard with you, so that you can stay powered-up and have a fully charged device when you land in paradise.
Some believe that Southwest may not even start flying to Hawaii next year, but perhaps 2019. The reason for that is because they said rather cryptically that tickets will go on sale in 2018. That’s a big range! If tickets go on sale in the first quarter, we might expect flights to begin before the busy Winter season. There will also have to be a lot of infrastructure to be placed, and a lot of training would have to take place, depending on whether the airline goes with a contractor service for airport operations, or offers internal transfer positions to current employees who work in other cities.
Southwest may be the inexpensive answer for which travelers have been searching for many years. While super cheap $200 flights to Europe have come along thanks to Icelandair and Wow Air, flights to Hawaii still cost $500 or more, depending on the season. In December, round trips can cost well over $1,000. It’s a well-known fact that when Southwest enters a new market, fares fall. This phenomenon is known as the “Southwest Effect.” Over its 46 years of service, Southwest has made a habit of finding under-served markets and offering cheap flights. They have been successful by operating more efficiently than any other airline.
To make these Hawaii flights happen, Southwest will have to get authorization from the FAA to fly Extended Twin-engine Operations, or “ETOPS” flights. Because the mainland is so far from Hawaii, airlines have to prove they can fly on a single engine for up to 180 minutes, should one of the two engines fail mid-flight. ETOPS-qualified planes have inflatable rafts installed on the cabin ceiling, in addition to life jackets at each seat.
Hawaii flights are huge bonus for members of Southwest’s Rapid Rewards frequent flyer program who hold the Companion Pass. Companion Pass holders get to declare a travel partner, and that person gets to fly with the pass holder for free! That is a ton of potential free travel.
Which Hawaiian destinations are you hoping Southwest will fly to, and would cheaper flights be enough to have you switch from your current favorite carrier? Tweet us @Adventuregirl.
photos by Paul Thompson
Paul Thompson is a revered aviation & travel journalist for Airways Live & The Points Guy. He is a 16-year airline industry veteran and sought after writer in the aeronautics field. Follow Paul on Twitter @flyingphotog