Hawaii-bound? Southwest adds a lot more nonstop flights to the islands from San Diego

Southwest Airlines jets at San Diego airport
Southwest Airlines will soon be launching more nonstop service to the Hawaiian islands, including Oahu, Maui, Kauai and The Big Island.
(Howard Lipin/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Southwest for the first time will be flying nonstop to Maui, Kauai and The Big Island from San Diego, with introductory one-way fares as low as $129


With consumers’ appetite for vacation travel growing and vaccination rates increasing, Southwest Airlines has decided to add more nonstop flights between San Diego and the Hawaiian islands, beginning next month.

The airline announced Thursday that it will begin flying to Maui, Kauai and The Big Island, in addition to its already existing flight to Oahu. Initially, not all of the flights will be daily, but by September, all of the Hawaii flights will be operating daily, Southwest said.

Beginning June 6, once-daily flights to Maui will launch, and come June 27, the frequency will be increased to twice a day. Nonstop service to Kona on the Big Island and Lihue on Kauai will debut June 27.

For Kona, the departures from San Diego will be Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. And for Kauai, the flights will leave on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. By Sept. 7, those routes will expand to once-daily flights.

Tickets for the new flights are now on sale, with discounted one-way fares as low as $129 for all four of the Hawaii destinations. To qualify for the introductory fare, tickets must be purchased by 11:59 p.m. central daylight time on Friday.

The announcement comes six months after Southwest debuted its very first nonstop flight to Hawaii from San Diego. With leisure travel expected to continue growing, the current Honolulu flight will go to twice daily, starting June 6.

“COVID restrictions are lightening up, there’s pent-up demand for leisure travel, and Hawaii is a primary leisure destination for our customers from California,” said Andrew Watterson, executive vice president and chief commercial officer for Southwest. “People are wanting to get out now.”

The airline launched its first nonstop route to Hawaii in March of 2019, beginning with service from Oakland. The flights over the Pacific were only possible after the Federal Aviation Administration approved that same year Southwest’s application to fly to Hawaii.

Both the grounding of the Boeing 737 Max and the pandemic delayed the gradual rollout of the Hawaii service from multiple destinations by about a year, Watterson said. In addition to San Diego, Southwest also flies to Hawaii from Sacramento, Oakland, San Jose and Long Beach.

“The response has been stronger than we anticipated,” Watterson said of the Hawaii routes. “With our existing customer base that has a lot of rapid reward points built up, we’ve seen a lot of them redeem for Hawaii, and then with our low fares, we’ve acquired some new customers, so for us that’s been quite a benefit.”

What distinguishes the San Diego flights from those in the other California cities is the higher level of military traffic they get because of the bases located both in San Diego and Honolulu.

While the new Southwest routes no doubt will be attractive to travelers, the airline has plenty of competition. Alaska Airlines currently has daily flights to Oahu, Maui, the Big Island and Kauai. Hawaiian Airlines flies daily to Oahu and Maui.

“Added flights and new destinations to Hawaii are always welcome, especially as people are looking to spend time outdoors,” said Sabrina LoPiccolo, spokeswoman for the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority. “With Southwest Airlines’ added flights, San Diego International Airport now has more service to Hawaii than we’ve ever had in the past.”

Watterson says Southwest will be tracking the performance of the new flights and depending on how they perform, there is the potential for expansion a year from now. Southwest will make use of 175-seat Boeing 737-800 and 737 Max jets for the flights.

Besides expanding Hawaii service from San Diego, Southwest is also launching nonstop flights to Hawaii from Los Angeles, Phoenix and Las Vegas, starting next month.

Also starting next month — on June 7 — is a previously announced nonstop service to Norfolk, Va.