One of the biggest changes in the domestic American market was Southwest’s expansion in Hawaii. America’s largest low-cost carrier has only been flying to Hawaii for six months. However, in just this amount of time, Hawaii has seen a “Southwest disruption.”
Southwest Hawaii disruption
Flights on Southwest between Hawaii and the United States mainland began in March 2019. Meanwhile, interisland flights took off from May 2019. Currently, according to Southwest’s dedicated Hawaii routes page, the airline flies nonstop from Oakland, San Jose, and Sacramento to destinations in Hawaii.
Expansion is also on the horizon. Additional connections will start soon to Hilo, Maui, Lihue, Kona, and Honolulu from cities like Oakland, San Jose, and Sacramento. San Diego appears to be on hold amid the 737 MAX grounding.
This marked the first real entrance of a low-cost carrier in the Hawaii domestic and mainland United States market. Right away, Southwest offered low-cost, affordable flights to Hawaii in an effort to draw in passengers.
Southwest and passengers
Southwest has a loyal passenger following. Many appreciate the airline’s generous checked baggage policy and fairly expansive route network.
Southwest also upgraded inflight offerings to make the long trek a little more enjoyable.
And, it appears that things have gone well for the airline. The giant, known for operating only Boeing 737s, has largely indicated Hawaii to be a successful market. Southwest’s statistics have been fantastic and expansion is on the horizon. The only roadblock for Southwest is the grounded 737 MAX. However, once that grounding is lifted, Southwest will certainly be able to find free aircraft to boost services.
Hawaiian Airlines is still around
No airline was more concerned about Southwest’s disruption in the Hawaii market than local Hawaiian Airlines. Though smaller than competitors, Hawaiian does offer a pretty expansive network of long-haul domestic and international connections. This is one area where they excel over Southwest. For now, Southwest does not offer significant connecting opportunities. Rather, eastern passengers will have to make a break in their journey. This makes nonstops, like Hawaiian’s Boston to Honolulu route, more appealing and time-saving.
Hawaiian also offers a premium cabin. Southwest does not. On the widebody Airbus A330s, this includes lie-flat premium cabin seating that works well for Hawaiian’s long-hauls to the Eastern United States.
Narrowbodies, however, have traditional recliner style seating. Although, Hawaiian does get a few extra points for a stylish cabin. While Southwest has caused a disruption in Hawaii, they likely will not go as far so as to introduce a new premium cabin.
Unless Southwest were to significantly revamp its network for enhanced connecting opportunities, Hawaiian will likely still hold its own thanks to nonstop long-haul domestic flights and international routes that Southwest does not compete on. Although, Hawaiian does have other formidable competitors. Domestically, Hawaiian Airlines can capture more premium travelers with a lie-flat premium cabin than all-economy cabins on Southwest.
How much more disruption can Southwest make in Hawaii?
If Southwest expands aggressively while also bolstering connecting opportunities, the airline will be one of the most formidable in the mainland United States to Hawaii market. Alaska Airlines is altering its Hawaii services. While other airlines have not announced major changes to Hawaii, it is still possible that other carriers will reevaluate route networks amid Southwest’s Hawaii disruption.
Do you prefer Southwest or another carrier for Hawaii flights? Let us know in the comments!