How Will Southwest Cope With The Arrival Of Frontier In Hawaii?

Southwest Airlines recently inaugurated flights to Hawaii. These flights marked a major shift in the market between the United States and Hawaii. In addition, Southwest also launched inter-island flights that have performed very well for them. Now, another major carrier may launch flights to Hawaii.

Frontier A320
Frontier Airlines is considering new flights to Hawaii. Photo: Frontier Airlines

Frontier flights to Hawaii

At the 2019 Paris Air Show, Indigo Partners announced an order for 50 Airbus A321XLR aircraft. 18 of these 50 will go to Frontier Airlines. Frontier Airlines plans to put these to good use. In a statement put out by Frontier Airlines, President and CEO Barry Biffle had the following to say:

“The A321XLR will enable Frontier to offer coast to coast service and explore exciting international and domestic opportunities, such as Hawaii, while continuing to deliver ‘Low Fares Done Right’ to our customers.”

By specifically naming Hawaii as a possible destination, Frontier Airlines will be going head-to-head against Southwest Airlines in the low-cost market. Compared to Southwest, however, Frontier occupies a slightly different market as a ULCC or ultra-low-cost carrier.

Frontier’s aircraft

Frontier have indicated that they plan to use the A321XLR on flights to Hawaii. The A321XLRs should allow Frontier to open these flights while still maintaining high-density seating. As the A321XLR is part of the A320neo family, Frontier Airlines should have minimal costs when it comes to introducing the new aircraft. This will help make the economic case for them to fly to Hawaii with their trademark low fares.

Frontier A321XLR
Frontier Airlines can use the A321XLR to launch flights to Hawaii. Photo: Airbus


Southwest Airlines and Frontier both offer single-class seating. Frontier’s seating is tighter than Southwest’s, however, Frontier does offer some seats with additional legroom. If you’re flying Frontier on a long flight to Hawaii, you’ll likely appreciate the extra legroom offered in those seats.

Frontier Interior
Frontier operates their aircraft with single-class seating. Photo: Frontier

How will Southwest cope?

Southwest made a big deal out of entering the market with flights to Hawaii. Indeed, Southwest’s entrance has had an impact on the market. Each airline has responded differently, however, Hawaiian has felt the most crunch.

SWA Inaugural Hawaii Flight
Southwest Airlines has done well in Hawaii. Photo: Southwest Airlines.

Southwest will likely feel most of the pressure compared to full-service carriers. Frontier and Southwest both seek customers based on price, while full-service carriers tend to win over connecting customers who seek more amenities on their trip.

If Southwest decides Frontier is a threat, which Frontier very well could be, then Southwest will likely seek to improve on their current offerings. First and foremost, Southwest could seek to add opportunities for connections. In addition, Southwest may choose to aggressively combat Frontier’s pricing as a method for retaining passengers. Southwest is relatively new to this market and, in order to build up their market share, they’ll have to remain competitive.

Could Southwest not respond?

Southwest may choose to not respond to Frontier’s entrance in the market at all. Southwest has a few additional perks compared to Frontier. First, Southwest offers a better onboard hard product. With additional legroom, free inflight entertainment, and complimentary snacks, Southwest is likely to be a better choice for families who want to keep costs low but also have a comfortable ride.

Southwest inflight snacks
Southwest Airlines offers passengers additional amenities onboard. Photo: Southwest

In addition, Southwest has proven they can compete against Frontier. Both airlines operate a base in Denver and Las Vegas. There is also some overlap between the two airlines in terms of route offerings. From both bases, Southwest and Frontier have also been expanding their networks.


Southwest will be the most impacted by Frontier’s entrance into the Hawaiian market. Both Frontier and Southwest will compete on offering the lowest price, however, Southwest may just stick with their current game plan since it seems to be working.

Would you fly Southwest or Frontier to Hawaii? Let us know in the comments!