How Will Hawaiian Airlines React To Southwest Launching Flights To The Aloha State?

Southwest Airlines has announced that it will launch flights from California to Hawaii on March 17th. Many of us are very happy to hear this news. How does Hawaiian Airlines feel about the new competitor though? And, most importantly, how will Hawaiian Airlines react to Southwest launching flights to Hawaii?

SWA Boeing 737 Hawaii
Southwest Airlines’ Boeing 737 aircraft will soon become a frequent visitor to Honolulu. Photo: Southwest Airlines.

Southwest’s Service to Hawaii

First of all, let’s take a look at Southwest’s service to Hawaii. As Simple Flying reported, the airline will initially offer direct flights from Oakland (OAK) to Oahu (HNL) and Maui (OGG) and from San Jose (SJC) to Maui (OGG) and Oahu (NHL). SWA will also provide interisland service connecting Honolulu (HNL) with Maui (OGG) and Kona (KOA).

Additionally, passengers traveling from Los Angeles (LAX), Ontario (ONT), Orange County (SNA), Long Beach (LGB), Burbank (BUR), or San Diego (SAN) will be able to book connecting flights to Hawaii.

The tickets are already available for purchase on Southwest’s website. One-way tickets can be purchased for a little as $49, while round-trip tickets are available for $91.60.

Of course, these prices are very cheap. I would assume, however, that Southwest Airlines’ fares will not stay this low forever. They are probably just special fares as the airline is entering a new market.

Hawaiian Airlines’ Service to the Mainland

Hawaiian Airlines provides interisland service, service to the Mainland and service to various international destinations. As a matter of fact, the airline offers nonstop service from Hawaii to the following U.S. cities:

  • Boston
  • Las Vegas
  • Long Beach
  • Los Angeles
  • San Francisco
  • New York City
  • Oakland
  • Phoenix
  • San Diego
  • Portland
  • Sacramento
  • San Jose
  • Seattle

As we can see, Hawaiian Airlines provides nonstop service to significantly more cities on the Mainland than Southwest Airlines will.

Hawaiian Airlines Moana Aircraft
Hawaiian Airlines is the flag carrier of Hawaii. Photo: Wikimedia.

Hawaiian Airlines’ ticket prices are significantly higher than Southwest’s though. The cheapest round-trip ticket from Oakland (OAK) to Honolulu (HNL) in April is available for $278. The average price for the same ticket is about $515.

How will Hawaiian Airlines react to Southwest launching flights to the Aloha State?

Airlines typically compete based on fares, added amenities, comfort, and convenience. In this case, the launch of Southwest Airlines’ Hawaii flights will most likely lead to a fare war. As a matter of fact, last month, American Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, and Alaskan Airlines lowered their fares for round-trip flights between Oakland and Honolulu departing in March in anticipation of SWA’s market entry. Round-trip tickets for all three carriers were available for around $350. Fares, however, can only be lowered so much. At some point, the fare structure becomes unsustainable and leads to significant losses for the airline.

SWA Hawaii
SWA has been very successful with its low-cost approach. Many travelers are looking forward to the airlines’ flights to Hawaii. Photo: Southwest Airlines.

Hawaiian Airlines will most likely not compete based on price alone. The airline definitely has other things going for it. It provides outstanding service and has won numerous awards including:

  • Best U.S. Airline by TRAVEL + LEISURE’s Wold’s Best Awards (2011-2017)
  • Best Domestic Airline by Conde Nast Traveler Reader’s Choice Awards (2015-2018)
  • #1 On-Time Performance by the U.S. Department of Transportation (2004-2017)

just to name a few. As a result, even though Hawaiian Airlines has already lowered its fares on some routes, it will most likely react by competing based on, and advertising, its outstanding service, added convenience, and interisland experience. After all, not all travelers visiting Hawaii will pick the airline based on price alone. There are other things that might be more important to them.

Additionally, the airline serves destinations in the United States that Southwest Airlines will not serve. Consequently, it will only compete with SWA on a few select routes and might put a bigger emphasis on the routes with less competition.

Overall

There are most certainly travelers that will prefer Hawaiian Airlines even though Southwest Airlines will offer lower fares. As a result, ultimately, Hawaiian Airlines will likely compete based on its competitive advantage instead of just focusing on price.

All in all, it will be interesting to see how things work out in the long run. I believe there is room for both, Hawaiian Airlines and SWA, to be successful in the Hawaiian market because they are two very different airlines after all.

How do you think Hawaiian Airlines will react to Southwest launching flights to Hawaii?

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