It is a well-known fact that Southwest Airlines is planning on flying routes to and from Hawaii. This we know, and we have been excited ever since the initial announcement was made. However, since the initial announcement that Southwest Airlines planned to fly to and from Hawaii things have kind of slowed down. Here is the latest update.
We have been waiting for these routes to become available for some time now. Southwest may have jumped the gun a little on their initial timetable, but according to Southwest Airline CEO Gary Kelly, all plans remain in place and continue to move forward. With the Southwest flight crew and fleet of 737-800 planes ETOPS certified for over water service, along with a few other factors you will see below, I think Southwest is still on target to start service to Hawaii…Just not as soon as we were initially told.
At this point most of it still remains a secret. Here are a few things we know about what has been going on and where things stand now.
In July 2014, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly announced plans for the airline’s continued expansion. In regards to Hawaii, while more legwork is needed to commence Hawaii flights, he said it “wouldn’t take years to start flights to the islands.” This was a different attitude that initially came from Southwest when it first announced the service to Hawaii what seems like long ago.
“We have work to do before we can fly to Hawaii, which I doubt we’ll be able to keep a secret.” – Gary Kelly
There are still some hurdles on the way that need to be cleared before Southwest can start flying planes to Hawaii. The good news is that two of those hurdles have recently been cleared which gives us a little hope that the airline will stick to its plan of flying routes to and from Hawaii.
Southwest Airlines pilots and flight attendants have both settled major contract disputes that have lasted over 4 years. There were a number of reasons this was essential to opening the doors to Southwest Hawaii routes, most importantly the new contract is ratified to allow the planes Southwest needs to fly routes to and from Hawaii.
Why Has Southwest Service to Hawaii Still Not Been Announced?
- There have actually been several reasons in play here, most of which are understandable. Again, the constant questions regarding Southwest to Hawaii routes could probably have been avoided if they had not jumped the gun on an initial timetable.
- For several years Southwest was the only airline that was growing and expanding. This has not been the case over the last two years (right after they initially announced possible mainland to Hawaii routes). They halted their expansion and the number of flights decreased.
- Southwest’s acquisition of AirTran was much more complicated than they originally thought it would be. The 737′s they acquired had to be taken out of service to be revamped. This was a tedious process.
- Allegiant Airlines Hawaii service began. They were not a major player and the service did flop, but they brought with them some initial uncertainty as to broader Hawaii flight pricing (more about that below). Southwest sat back and waited to see if Allegiant’s discount carrier’s entry would have any impact on the other airlines’ Hawaii ticket prices. When it didn’t this caused major concern for Southwest and even other prospects such as Virgin America.
- Southwest may have overshot on how much of a difference they could really make in ticket price offers. Competition between Hawaiian Air and Alaska Air is pretty fierce and doesn’t show as much room for Southwest as initially expected.
- The entire Southwest booking system will need to be updated to accommodate the new Hawaii routes.
- The current aircraft configuration for Southwest does offer more seats than its main competitor Alaska Airlines. However, this could present weight issues for Hawaii flights. That problem should be taken care of when Southwest begins to take delivery of their longer range and capacity 737 MAX fleet starting in 2017.
Southwest Airlines to Hawaii: Facts
So what do we already know? Here are a few things we know to be facts about the current Southwest Airlines to Hawaii situation.
- Southwest Airlines has taken delivery of a fleet of 737–800 planes ETOPS certified for over water service. This alone tells us the routes are on the way. This was started but was put on hold. We expect this to resume soon.
- The Southwest Airline flight crews have received over water training that is required to fly to Hawaii.
- Reduced air inventory at Hawaiian, Alaska, Allegiant and others have increased Hawaii fares. That’s a natural calling card to help get Southwest to Hawaii.
- Allegiant Airlines beat Southwest to the Hawaii market but it was a huge flop. It chose to operate under a completely different business model than Southwest, Which showed us that price alone would not dictate in the Hawaii aviation market. Do we want cheap fares? Yes! Do we want horrible service, bad flights and customer complaints? No!
- Southwest Airlines has stated that Hawaii is only a matter of “when,” and not “if.”
- When the Southwest Airline to Hawaii routes are finally revealed it will more than likely be a huge game changer in the Hawaii airline route market.
- Flights to Hawaii await delivery of the new Boeing 737 Max 8 planes. Southwest Airlines is the launch customer for Boeing’s latest plane and upcoming Hawaii workhorse. The first group of 737 Max 8’s is on schedule to enter SWA service in Q4 2017. Of course this could always be delayed but right now this is what we are hearing.
Southwest Airlines to Hawaii: Predictions
- We can hopefully expect to see Southwest routes to Hawaii announced later in 2017, with actual flights taking off in early 2018. This should be the case unless something unforeseen comes up. Flights can start in 2018 after in-service testing to confirm performance for Hawaii routes. Southwest Airlines using existing 737-800 aircraft before 2017, while technically possible, remains highly unlikely for logistical and other reasons. And honestly, while 2018 routes are very possible, at the current rate it still seems unlikely.
- Initially we though maybe Southwest would fly a bit more inland and take on a few other routes (Las Vegas, Arizona, etc) but that doesn’t seem to be the case. It looks like Southwest will be limited to flying just to the West Coast. Even going a little inland isn’t feasible with their aircraft. This means hoping other Southwest flights to the West Coast to complete you Hawaii trip.
- Oakland is going to be the primary departure city, with Los Angeles right behind that.
- There has been some talk of inter-island service from Southwest, but most study’s reveal that initially there probably isn’t room for it for them, as Hawaiian Air and Island Air would probably still dominate the inter-island market. Hawaii inter island travelers would welcome another choice though, so maybe Southwest will look into it further after they get their mainland to Hawaii routes off the ground.
- With the new aircraft Southwest will have in 2017 many more flying options and possibilities should be in play.
The problem is now Southwest Airlines is keeping a lot of information close to the vest. So that could mean a couple of things… they are trying to stay out of the line of fire with Hawaiian Airlines right now and/or they really have no idea when/if Southwest Airline to Hawaii routes will actually ever happen.
Complications appear to have occurred with ETOPS in relation to Southwest Airlines Caribbean flights. ETOPS has proven to be more problematic for Southwest Airlines, even in shorter over-water distances compared with Hawaii. If they are unable to overcome these shorter “over-water” route complications then how will they deal with longer over-water routes related to flying into and out of Hawaii?
We will see how this all plays out, but hopefully very soon we will see news break regarding Southwest Airlines providing routes to Hawaii. It is only a matter of time. It has been a long time coming and most of us are still waiting eagerly to see what type of deals and offers we may see when the Southwest mainland to Hawaii routes finally enter the market.