Southwest launches long-awaited, low-fare flights to Hawaii from California
Southwest Airlines began selling tickets Monday for its long-awaited nonstop flights from the West Coast to Hawaii, starting with Oakland as the first departure city. The launch date for San Diego flights will be revealed in the coming weeks.
The debut of the new service came with heavily discounted one-way fares to Oahu and Maui for as low as $49. It is likely that a similarly low promotional fare could be offered once the San Diego flights begin. The discounted tickets, part of a two-day fare sale for travel through June 19, sold out within two hours following Southwest’s morning announcement.
The airline reached out on Twitter to respond to frustrated customers unable to nab the sale fares, noting that “demand for those first seats at our two-day launch fare has thousands of our customers already booked on new flights between California and the Islands.”
The new flights from Oakland to Oahu start March 17, followed by an inaugural flight to Maui on April 7. The once daily flights will quickly transition to two flights a day. Service out of San Jose to Honolulu is up next, with the once daily flights starting May 5, followed by nonstop flights to Maui on May 26.
The airline was more vague about its plans for San Diego, although connecting service will be available via Oakland, starting March 24 for Honolulu flights, followed by service to Maui on April 28.
“We’re just getting started with our build-out of Hawaii service and intentionally offer our San Diego customers connections to (Hawaii) from day one,” said Andrew Watterson, Southwest Airlines executive vice president and chief revenue officer. “We worked hard to publish this schedule and get these initial flights launching here in the next couple of weeks. We’ll have news on San Diego’s initial nonstop service to Hawaii in the coming weeks.”
Contributing to the Monday morning frenzy for low-priced fares were people from other parts of the country trying to purchase tickets for flights connecting through Oakland. A number of those bookings came from San Diego, said Southwest spokesman Brad Hawkins.
Discounted one-way fares for San Diego flights going through Oakland were initially available for as low as $88 one way. By comparison, nonstop flights to Honolulu from San Diego on rival air carrier Alaska Airlines were as low as $179 one way on Monday.
The newly scheduled service comes on the heels of Southwest’s announcement last week that it had received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to operate the longer trans-Pacific flights. The airline had been pursuing the Hawaii itinerary for years and let it be known back in 2017 that it was hoping to start service by late last year, but the federal government shutdown delayed those plans.
In addition to the new nonstops, Southwest also is offering inter-island flights beginning April 28 between Honolulu and Maui, and starting May 12, service will begin between Honolulu and Kona. The fare sale advertised those flights for as low as $29 one way.
Southwest’s foray into the Hawaiian islands market is likely to spur lower fare offerings from its competitors well into the future, said airline analyst Henry Harteveldt. He noticed that other airlines, including Alaska, American and United, either matched or lowered their fares on Monday to be more competitive with Southwest.
He said that in his 30 years in the airline business, he had never seen a one-way fare as low as $49 for service between the West Coast and Hawaii.
“Southwest for 47 years has built its brand on offering low airfares,” he said. “They’re not always the lowest but Southwest often uses price to attract and keep its customers, and it’s too big of an airline for other airlines to ignore.”
Southwest rival Alaska Airlines already flies nonstop between San Diego and Oahu, Kauai, Maui and the island of Hawaii. And Hawaiian Airlines flies to Oahu and Maui from San Diego.
Harteveldt offered advice for San Diego consumers eagerly awaiting the announcement of the start of Southwest service locally to Hawaii.
“Once Southwest publishes its Hawaii schedules from San Diego,” he said, “watch for other airlines to match either nonstop flights from San Diego or connecting fights from San Diego through one of their hubs to Hawaii.”
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