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Travel | Staycation

Southwest’s nonstop flights to Hawaii finally ready for takeoff in San Diego

HAWAII
Beachgoers enjoy the sand and waters of Kaanapali Beach on Maui in Hawaii. Maui will be one of two destinations for Southwest Airlines’ new nonstop flights between San Diego and Hawaii, debuting in April.
(MICHAEL GOULDING / MCT)

The new flights to Maui and Oahu come with a promotional fare of $129 each way

The wait is finally over. Southwest Airlines’ long promoted nonstop flights between San Diego and Hawaii will debut in April, with daily flights planned to both Maui and Oahu.

The new nonstop service comes with a one-day fare sale of $129 each way. The discounted fares, which will expire at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time on Wednesday, are available for travel between April 14 — the start of service to Maui — and June 4. The same offer applies for travel to Honolulu, which will begin April 20.

The announcement Wednesday morning comes eight months after the airline received formal approval from the Federal Aviation Administration allowing it to operate flights between California and Hawaii. While San Diego is one of four cities in the state to get the new nonstop service, it was last in line for the start of service. The Hawaii flights out of Oakland and San Jose already are underway, and Southwest will start flying from Sacramento to Oahu early next month.

The new San Diego flights to Maui will depart each day from the San Diego International Airport at 8:10 a.m., with the return flights from Maui landing in San Diego at 9:20 p.m. The departures to Honolulu are set for 3:40 p.m. daily, and the return flights will land in San Diego at 6:15 p.m.

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With the newly announced service from San Diego, Southwest will now be offering 28 flights daily between California and the Hawaiian islands. Inter-island service will grow to 38 departures a day serving Hilo and Kona on the Big Island, Lihue on Kauai and Kahului on Maui.

The service between San Diego and Hawaii would have likely started much sooner were it not for the grounding of the Boeing 737 Max planes following two crashes that killed 346 people. With 34 of the Max planes in its fleet currently out of commission, Southwest was forced to significantly slow the long-planned start of the flights. Southwest will employ Boeing 737-800 series planes, which seat 175, for the San Diego to Hawaii flights.

Wednesday’s fare sale isn’t quite as attractive as the Hawaii promotions that preceded it. One-way fares for the Oakland flights, for example, were as low as $49, while the sale fares for flights out of Sacramento were $99. Specific rules apply for the Wednesday sale promotion. Travel is permitted only on specified days: Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays to Hawaii and Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from Hawaii to San Diego.

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Also on sale are flights between the Hawaiian islands, priced as low as $29 each way. The pricing is available for travel between Nov. 11 and March 4 of next year and only on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Passengers will be able to start booking San Diego-Hawaii flights Wednesday morning.

Southwest is not the first airline to fly nonstop to Hawaii from the San Diego airport. Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines also offer a variety of nonstop flights.

Despite that, Southwest executives believe there’s plenty of room for competition. Since the start of the Hawaii service, Southwest says its flights have been running, on average, at 90 percent occupancy. The added competition can only benefit consumers, says the San Diego airport.

“A new air carrier to Hawaii will always spur competition on airfares, which in turn stimulate new passengers to want to visit the Hawaiian Islands,” said Hampton Brown, Vice President of Marketing & Innovation for the airport. “Additionally, we estimate 80 passengers a day drive from San Diego County up to Los Angeles to fly to Hawaii and another 180 passengers a day fly from San Diego via another mainland gateway (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Phoenix, etc.) to reach Hawaii. We expect those passengers would want more direct service options.”

There remains the potential for the Southwest service between San Diego and Hawaii to grow, although the airline would not comment on that. In the cities of Oakland and San Jose, the airline has since added nonstop service to the island of Hawaii and Kauai, which will start in January.

“Our history in San Diego is deep and we know that Hawaii is a long-held desire on Southwest for San Diego customers,” said Southwest spokesman Brad Hawkins. “We’re consistently evaluating new opportunities to provide nonstop service, and demand for Hawaii travel is already strong.

Additional inter-island service was also part of Wednesday’s flight schedule announcement. Beginning April 14, Southwest will offer six flights daily in each direction between Honolulu and Kahului, Maui, an increase from the current offering of four flights.


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