Southwest Airlines Hawaii Operations – How Are They Going?

Southwest Airlines is still in the midst of a big expansion of its services to and from Hawaii. The airline only began flying to Hawaii in March last year, but already it has made a big impact on the competition and ticket prices for passengers.

Southwest Airlines Ramp Agents De-Ice Aircraft Prior to Takeoff
Southwest’s Hawaii expansion has been quick and thorough. Photo: Southwest Airlines

Back in March last year, Southwest embarked on an ambitious expansion campaign to the islands of Hawaii. Since then, the airline has expanded its services to the islands in a couple of different phases, and it has had quite an impact on the market.

The phases of Southwest’s Hawaii expansion

Southwest commenced its Hawaii services with flights from Oakland to Honolulu on 17 March last year. This route was followed shortly after by flights from Oakland to Kahului on 7 April, and then flights between Honolulu and Kahului 28 April.

The initial phase of Southwest’s Hawaii expansion was followed by flights from San Jose to Honolulu on 5 May and San Jose to Kahului on 26 May.

Considering Southwest had never flown to the islands before last year, it has had a massive impact since. In total, the airline has increased the number of seats to the islands by 30%.

Such a massive increase in seats has, of course, also had an effect on the price of tickets. Southwest’s move into the Hawaii market reportedly reduced fares between California and Hawaii by 17%.

Understandably, the competition isn’t too happy about Southwest’s arrival as, not only has it eaten into market share, it’s also eaten into the margins on all flights to the islands.

Inaugural Flight 6808 from Oakland to Honolulu | March 17, 2019
Southwest Airlines operated its first flight to Hawaii in March last year. Photo: Southwest Airlines

This year’s expansion

Unfortunately for its competitors, Southwest Airlines wasn’t done with its initial expansion into the Hawaiian islands last year. In mid-November, Southwest Airlines began operating flights from San Jose and Oakland to Lihue.

This year, it also commenced flights to Kona and will be opening another new round of services in April, with San Diego to Maui on the 14th and San Diego to Honolulu on the 20th.

After Southwest has opened these new routes in April, its Hawaii expansion program should be close to complete.

As reported by Travel Pulse, Southwest’s CEO, Gary Kelly, recently voiced his opinions about the airline’s Hawaii program, saying,

“We are very pleased with the strength of customer demand for Southwest service in Hawaii, and it will continue to be a focus for growth in 2020.”

Flight to Honolulu
Southwest significantly lowered prices to Hawaii. Photo: Southwest Airlines

Potential controversy

Even though the Hawaii expansion has been reasonably smooth sailing from a logistical perspective, complaints have recently been voiced about the way in which Southwest Airlines got approval for the campaign.

According to reports by the Wall Street Journal, a whistleblower has raised allegations that the Federal Aviation Administration rushed through the approvals for Southwest’s Hawaii flights for “the financial benefit of the airline.”

If the allegations of “gross mismanagement and an abuse of authority” turn out to be substantiated, the success story of Southwest’s Hawaii expansion could be seriously tarnished.