Southwest Gets the Green Light on Hawaii Flights

June CasagrandeFebruary 28, 2019
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Southwest Airlines has just cleared its final hurdle to begin flights to Hawaii. The Federal Aviation Administration finally gave the green light on Feb. 27, 2019, for the low-cost carrier to start selling tickets to the Aloha State.

But don’t surf over to expecting to book just yet. The airline hasn’t announced when service will begin or how soon you’ll be able to reserve. On the day we got the FAA news, Southwest’s website didn’t recognize the airport codes for any of the four major Hawaiian islands’ airports. But considering how long Southwest has been preparing for this moment — and how long travelers have been waiting for this news — it’s a safe bet that the airline won’t drag its feet on getting these flights up and running.

“We have teams now finalizing our plans to offer service to Hawaii, and we’ll publicly announce our timing for inaugural flights and other service when we publish our schedule in the coming days,” a Southwest spokesperson told NerdWallet the day of the FAA announcement.

Southwest jets will head to four major Hawaiian islands:

  • Honolulu, Oahu, the state’s capital and home to Pearl Harbor.

  • Maui, famous for the golden sand beaches of resort areas like Kaanapali.

  • The Big Island, home to Kilauea, Hawaii’s most active volcano.

  • Kauai, the “Garden Isle” home to the breathtaking Napali Coast.

Nonstop flights will depart from Oakland, San Diego, San Jose and Sacramento, California. The airline also plans to offer inter-island flights.

The new Southwest service is good news for several types of travelers. Anyone with sights set on Hawaii could benefit if, as experts have predicted, Southwest’s low fare offerings force other carriers to lower their prices, too. If predictions are right, competition from Southwest could drive down competitors’ fares as much as 30%. And there’s another factor driving down prices: Hawaiian Airlines recently announced it will offer low-cost main cabin basic fares. But unlike Hawaiian’s basic fare, Southwest flights will include up to two free checked bags, as well as a chance to grab the seat you want.

And yes, you’ll be able to book flights to Hawaii with Southwest Rapid Rewards points, even though the airline isn’t yet saying how many you’ll need. Perhaps the biggest beneficiaries of this news will be travelers who hold a Companion Pass, which allows the Companion Pass holder to choose a traveler to fly along for free, minus the taxes and fees.

The buzz around Southwest’s Hawaiian ambitions goes back nearly a decade, with travel message boards and Hawaii bloggers eagerly anticipating the move back in 2011. On Feb. 5 of this year, Southwest finally announced its first touchdown in Hawaii: a test flight required as part of the FAA approval process. Three weeks later, approval was in the bag. Now, travelers are waiting to see just how good this news will turn out to be. Stay tuned.

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