Making good on its promise to start offering flights to Hawaii, Southwest Airlines announced this week that San Diego will be one of the four California cities to get the new nonstop service.
There are still no firm start dates for the flights because the airline is awaiting formal approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to operate the longer trans-Pacific service, a process that could take up to a year to complete.
Southwest plans to serve four of the Hawaiian islands — Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and the island of Hawaii. In its announcement, the airline also said it plans to provide inter-island service, a move that could potentially take a bite out of Hawaiian Airlines’ robust service between the islands.
It is uncertain whether the new nonstops will start this year, although Southwest said it plans to at least begin selling tickets this year.
Other California cities identified for the Hawaii flights are Oakland, San Jose and Sacramento. Southwest will ramp up slowly, most likely starting with just one route between Hawaii and the West Coast, Southwest president Tom Nealon said in an earnings call last week. No indication was given as to which California city will be the first to get the Hawaii flights.
“Now I don’t see us serving just one city pair for very long, and I’d rather not say how short just yet,” he said. “But yeah, I think we’re definitely planning to start very modestly.”
Southwest executives also said that it’s their hope to start the first flights by the end of the year. CEO Gary Kelly said that planes already have been reserved for the Hawaii flights with the expectation service could start before the end of this year, although it may not debut until 2019.
It is also unclear when the inter-island service would start.
Southwest rival Alaska Airlines currently flies nonstop between San Diego and Oahu, Kauai, Maui and the island of Hawaii. Hawaiian Airlines flies to Oahu and Maui from San Diego.