Southwest Airlines on Wednesday began its long-anticipated daily, nonstop service from San Diego to Hawaii.
The carrier started teasing service between San Diego and Hawaii long ago. It entered the Hawaii market on March 17, 2019, with service between Honolulu and Oakland, Calif. It launched its initial interisland service April 28 with flights between Honolulu and Kahului.
Southwest’s Hawaii growth plans were delayed in 2019 due to a lack of available aircraft as a result of the Federal Aviation Administration’s March 13, 2019, grounding of Boeing 737 Max planes.
While Southwest doesn’t yet fly Max planes in Hawaii, prior to the steep coronavirus drop in travel demand, the carrier was having to stretch its fleet of 737-800s to cover for the Max aircraft that it had removed them from its schedule. The FAA has not yet indicated how soon the aircraft could be returned to passenger service.
For much of this year, Southwest has had vastly different COVID-related challenges. Still, Southwest had expanded its interisland service and launched Hawaii nonstop service to Oakland, San Jose and Sacramento, Calif., before fear over the pandemic and government regulations decimated trans-Pacific travel to Hawaii.
After Hawaii instituted a 14-day self-quarantine for trans-Pacific travelers on March 26, Southwest dramatically reduced its Hawaii flight schedule and postponed the once-daily service between San Diego and Kahului that was supposed to start April 14, and the April 20 launch of once-daily service between San Diego and Honolulu.
Hawaii finally began a pre-arrival testing program Oct. 15, providing a pathway for trans-Pacific travelers to test out of the quarantine and for Southwest and other carriers to begin increasing Hawaii service.
Southwest spokesman Brad Hawkins said the carrier is a trusted travel partner of the state of Hawaii and is communicating specific pre-trip instructions and resources with every Hawaii traveler.
“Beside San Diego, (Wednesday) we also relaunched service to the islands from Sacramento, San Jose, and increased our flights from Oakland,” Hawkins said. “The San Diego- Maui route has not yet made it back into the schedule, but I know it’s intended as soon as feasible.”