Southwest cleared to launch Hawaii service
It’s finally happening.
Southwest Airlines received Federal Aviation Administration approval Wednesday to begin making long, over-water flights to Hawaii.
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It’s finally happening.
Southwest Airlines received Federal Aviation
Administration approval Wednesday to begin making long, over-water flights to Hawaii.
The carrier said Wednesday it would publish its schedule in the “coming days.”
Southwest Chairman and CEO Gary Kelly said in January the carrier could begin flying a month after getting its certification and beginning sales. Southwest plans to begin service to Hawaii from four California cities and add interisland routes
a few months later.
It’s likely Southwest
will start service with
low introductory fares, which other carriers would then match, according to airline analysts.
Tanya Ching, a former
Hawaii resident now living in San Antonio, said she was stoked over the news.
“I’m looking forward to finding cheaper flights to come home,” said Ching, who reacted to Southwest’s announcement by posting a tears-of-joy emoji on her Facebook page Wednesday. “I really miss our family back home and Southwest will definitely help us to get our fix of family time, the local food, and our beautiful beaches. I can’t wait!”
Ching is not alone. The all-economy-seat carrier has grown popular with
certain consumers for its low fares, no hidden fees pledge and its absence of bag fees and change fees. Hawaii tourism officials also are revved, hoping the new carrier can offset some of the softening in Hawaii tourism that emerged in the back half of 2018 and has carried over into 2019.
Jack Richards, Pleasant Holidays president and CEO, said, “When Southwest enters a new market, such as Hawaii, the actual number of passengers for that market increases.”
Richards said having a new carrier coming into the Hawaii market with a different set of customers is good news for Hawaii, which is still struggling to recover from last year’s volcano eruption, the bad weather, the hotel strike and the federal government shutdown.
Duke Ah Moo, Hilton’s vice president and commercial
director for Hawaii, said “we anticipate their service to bring additional visitors to the state not only via their new flights but also from their marketing initiatives which will increase exposure and awareness of the
in Hawaii has been eagerly anticipated since its announcement last year that it planned to start flying
to Hawaii from the California cities of San Diego,
Oakland, San Jose and
Sacramento and then add interisland routes that include Maui, Hawaii island and Kauai. There’s also been talk of a Las Vegas route.
The carrier had anticipated flying sometime
in February, but the
delayed regulators from completing the carrier’s certification.
Southwest has now ended a period of test
runs for its 175-seat Boeing 737-800 aircraft, its initial aircraft for Hawaii service.
Southwest’s Chief Operating Officer Mike Van de Ven said during a January earnings call that Southwest first would focus
on mainland to Hawaii flights. It would probably be “a couple of months of service before we get into the interisland flying,” Van de Ven said.
In a January earnings call, CEO Kelly provided a glimpse into how Southwest plans to prioritize
“So we’re at record fleet numbers this year and we’ll be adding a net of
25-ish in 2019. So to answer your question, is what do we do with 25 airplanes? And we’re going to Hawaii. We’re going big. That needs to be the focus,” Kelly said.
The company, which
has been in a dispute
with its mechanics
union over planes being grounded for mechanical issues, said it foresees
“no challenges with the technical readiness or
operation of our Hawaii service.”
Brad DiFiore, managing director for Ailevon Pacific Aviation Consulting, said, “Whatever they do — it will be big and have a dramatic impact on the Hawaii market. For this year, I can’t fathom a bigger
airline announcement for Hawaii.”
DiFiore said Southwest has been tight-lipped about how many seats it will add and its timetable for sales and service. But
it looks like all will be revealed quickly and that haste will work for the
betterment of the consumer, he said.
“Normally once you know you can fly, you put it out for sale for 90 days to get bookings up,” DiFiore said. “But I expect you’ll see Southwest entering into Hawaii’s market a lot quicker because of anticipation and demand. If they announce a very quick start day, they’ll have very low introductory fares to help them fill up as quickly as possible.”
The extremely competitive pricing environment won’t last forever, but
DiFiore said there won’t be a carrier in Hawaii’s market that doesn’t take Southwest seriously and respond in kind.
“It’s another competitor in a market that has lots
of competitors. Its entry will have an impact on pricing and capacity, certainly in the near term,” he said. “All of its Hawaii
competitors are in it for the long game. I don’t think that we will see a retreat from anyone, although
we may have marginal capacity reductions for a time.”