Southwest Airlines Announces Hilo As New Hawaii Destination

Hilo will become the fifth Hawaiian airport served by Southwest Airlines as the carrier confirms it will begin flights on the new route.

Southwest inaugural flight to Hawaii
Southwest Airlines inaugural flight lands in Honolulu. Photo: Southwest Airlines.

As reported by Hawaii Tribune Herald, local Mayor Harry Kim revealed on Friday that Southwest Airlines would begin four daily flights between Honolulu and Hilo International Airport in the fall. Direct flights between Hilo and the mainland will begin “before the holidays” according to Kim who spoke with Southwest directly by telephone.

Southwest Airlines also tweeted the news confirming:

“We’re excited to announce that Hilo will be the fifth airport served by Southwest in the Hawaiian Islands.”

The exact date the new route will commence has not yet been confirmed. Southwest add:

“We’ll let you know when our low fares and interisland flights for Hilo are available for purchase.”

Celebrating a Hawaiian expansion

Southwest Airlines is increasingly competing with Hawaiian Airlines in the region. It began flights between Honolulu and Oakland, California, in March. The carrier also announced routes to the islands of Kona, Maui, and Oahu. The first interisland flights to Maui and Oahu started at the end of April and run four times daily each way. Southwest now offers routes between Oakland and Kahului. And, routes between San Jose and Honolulu and Kahului.

SWA Inaugural Hawaii Flight
Southwest’s inaugural Flight 6808 landed in Honolulu on March 17th, 2019. Photo: Southwest Airlines.

On Saturday a team from Southwest Airlines celebrated the news of the Hilo route at an event held on Hawaii Island. Flights to Kona began today. According to Hawaii News Now flights to the island of Lihue are also expected, but details for the route are being “ironed out.”

Hawaiian Airlines unlikely to engage in a price war

On April 3rd, Simple Flying reported that Hawaiian Airlines was “pulling out the stops” in order to compete with Southwest Airlines in the region. Southwest Airlines offers a no-frills, low-cost, service. In contrast, Hawaiian Airlines appears to be following a premium service route. In an interview with Routes Online at the time, Peter Ingram said:

“We are a premium leisure carrier setting ourselves apart from the ultra-low-cost model. Hawaii is a premium destination and we are a premium carrier but because we are leisure we also have to make sure we have a good cost structure.”

Hawaiian Airlines A321
Hawaiian’s investment in A321s has allowed it to reach into new markets. Photo: Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines doesn’t seem inclined to follow a low-price strategy or engage in a price-war with Southwest. Ingram told Beat of Hawaii:

“I am very confident that we have cost structure that will allow us to be competitive…. We compete effectively because we focus on a single thing, our unique brand of Hawaiian hospitality. How we do that… won’t change…. We won’t try to do what they do.”

Hawaiian Airlines is also upgrading its fleet, adding another six Airbus A321neos to a current fleet of 11.

Is Europe next for Southwest Airlines?

In March, Simple Flying speculated if, after its new Hawaii destinations, Southwest could be considering operating flights to Europe.  Chief Revenue Officer, Andrew Watterson commented on the chance of such a development at the time:

“Well, let’s take one step at a time. Hawaii is already a big deal for us. It’ll take us this year and next to fully build it out. We’ll concentrate on that first, get that under our belt, and then figure out where else we can go in the world.”

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