Southwest Airlines, America’s low cost airline, is making preparations to launch flights from the west coast of California, to Hawaii.
Southwest is currently awaiting FAA approval to start operating flights across the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii. With plans to fly from 4 west coast airports, operations were expected to start in August. This however has not been the case, and the latest news is that flights are planned to launch in October.
Southwest want to operate their Hawaii routes from bases in California. The proposed origins of flights are Oakland, Sacramento, San Diego, and San Jose. From here flights will cross the Pacific Ocean. Southwest currently fly to 100 destinations across North America so expanding this network to include Hawaii would make good sense.
WN2206 is currently Southwest’s longest flight. Scheduled to take 5 hours and 50 minutes, it travels a distance of 2,447 miles between Baltimore and Oakland. Hence, upon launch Hawaii flights will become the airlines longest route. While the exact routes are yet to be confirmed, the great circle distance between San Diego and Honolulu is 2,613 miles.
In contrast to the long flights between the islands and the mainland, the airline is also looking to launch inter island flights between the 4 airports. As such Southwest are looking to become direct competitors with Hawaiian Airlines. Hawaiian Airlines currently flies to all of the destinations that Southwest intend to serve. As a result, effective pricing on this route will be key for Southwest. In the first quarter of 2018 Hawaiian carried a total of 1,018,741 passengers across their network, with aircraft being the preferred choice to travel between the Hawaiian islands.
Due to its competitive fare pricing strategy, it seems like launching both mainland and inter-island flights could be a boon for Southwest. When asked about prices the airline’s chief revenue officer, Andrew Watterson, commented:
We can’t talk about our pricing. The Department of Justice frowns on airlines discussing future pricing. But if you look at price on the market today to and from the mainland, we have the lowest cost of any airline operating that route, so we’d fully expect that we’d be able to lower prices compared to what’s available today, and we expect other airlines will then match us, and then I think everyone’s going to benefit from that.”
When making his comments to the press, Mr Watterson made it clear that the same Southwest perks offered across the rest of the network will be carried over to the new Hawaii routes. In addition to the policy of two free bags, there will also be free changes to flights. Mr Watterson claimed “We don’t think it costs us $200 to change your reservation, so we’re not going to charge you $200 to change your reservation, so that’s free.”
No date has been set for the launch of these services, however, tickets are expected to go on sale in October, with flights launching soon after.