New Developments Point To Early 2019 Start Of Southwest Hawaii Flights

We have been tracking developments for Southwest’s flights to Hawaii for a while now. Southwest had expressed interest in selling tickets to Hawaii by the end of 2018. With 2018 about to end, the chances of that happening are quite slim.

Southwest will soon start flying to Hawaii!

Why haven’t flights been launched yet?

There are a few hurdles Southwest has to cross before they can schedule flights and sell tickets to Hawaii.

Southwest maintains a fleet comprised entirely of Boeing 737s. As these are twin-engine planes, the FAA requires safety certification for these planes to fly over the Pacific as the nearest diversion point is farther away than mainland flights. The technical term for this certification is ETOPS or Extended-range Twin-engine Operational Performance Standards.

southwest hawaii flights
Southwest operates a fleet which only comprises B737 aircraft. Photo: Tom Boon

This process can take a long time since there are many different tests and certification procedures required. Southwest has to demonstrate their in-flight safety procedures for the FAA both on land and then in the air on a proving test flight.

Southwest previously indicated that their safety procedures for the ETOPS flights had been approved by the FAA.

Some astute flight trackers noticed a peculiar flight operated by Southwest. Flown as SWA8750, the flight took off from Oakland, CA and flew for about four hours over the Pacific before returning to Oakland. The 737 used was ETOPS configured.

Oakland is an important market for Southwest and they intend to operate flights from Oakland to Hawaii.

Map of Southwest Hawaii Routes
Southwest proposes to start operations to Hawaii from 4 Californian airports. Image: Southwest Airlines

Southwest CEO Gary Kelly is eager to get flights to Hawaii on sale. In comments made to Bloomberg in December, he indicated Southwest’s Hawaii flights would begin during the peak winter season. With the peak winter season coming to a close in February, Southwest is working hard to get these flights up and running.

In contrast to other airlines, Southwest has indicated there will not be a significant amount of time between when flights will go on sale and when flights will begin.

One aspect that could work for Southwest is the immense public interest in these flights. If the hype still remains (which we think will) and Southwest offers low fares with all the normal perks– if not more– then these flights could be a huge success for Southwest.

Southwest Airlines airplane seats
Southwest Airlines Interior. Public Domain.

With free checked bags, slightly more economy class pitch, and efficient planes, Southwest is set to be stiff competition against many domestic airlines.

Some airlines have become proactive in responding to Southwest’s expansion into Hawaii. Fares have seen a general decrease. A quick search on Google Flights shows round-trip fares in the low to mid-$300s in January.

New Developments Point To Early 2019 Start Of Southwest Hawaii Flights
Round-trip fares between Oakland and San Jose to Honolulu

In addition, Hawaiian Airlines has been taking some protective measures to remain competitive in the market. In response to the low-cost model adopted by other mainline carriers, Hawaiian introduced a basic economy fare. With Southwest flights to Hawaii looming, Hawaiian also expanded their codeshare operations with JetBlue.

Ultimately, there is a ton of excitement for Southwest flights to Hawaii. Given the various timelines and information presented, it would not be surprising to see tickets go on sale in January with flights commencing in late January or early February.

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