Update January 2019
Coming soon, you might be able to get to the Big Island for a smaller amount of money.
Southwest Airlines previously said they would begin offering flights to Hawaii starting in 2018 (that has since been delayed to begin sometime in 2019.) The no-frills airline is known for its low-priced fares and generous policies that allow flyers to check two bags for free (as long as they meet certain size requirements) and sit wherever they choose on the plane when they board.
You heard that right. We’re thrilled to share our intention to bring our world-famous hospitality and value to the Hawaiian Islands! pic.twitter.com/NoVNXlsSH7— Southwest Airlines (@SouthwestAir) October 12, 2017
By adding flights to Hawaii, the airline could become even more valuable to consumers. Southwest says it plans to announce service details at a later date, but based on what we know now, here’s what the change could mean for you.
Cheaper flights to Hawaii?
Travel enthusiasts know that it’s insanely expensive to travel to Hawaii, whether paying with cash or points and miles. In part, that’s due to a lack of competition. While Hawaii is a popular travel destination, not all major U.S. airlines fly there.
If Southwest starts offering cheaper flights to Hawaii, it could spur price competition and potentially bring prices down across the board.
Potentially more access to Hawaii award tickets
Right now, finding a flight to Hawaii that you can pay for with points and miles sometimes feels like winning the jackpot. That’s because airlines often limit how many seats are available to those paying with rewards rather than cash.
But Southwest’s new service to Hawaii might change that. A 2017 study by research firm IdeaWorksCompany and travel company CarTrawler showed that Southwest was the only airline surveyed that offered 100% overall availability for award seats. If Southwest keeps up its current practice, redeeming frequent flyer rewards for tickets to Hawaii might soon become less like playing the lottery.
A more valuable Companion Pass
Perhaps Southwest’s most famous benefit is its Companion Pass, which lets you choose one person to accompany you, free of charge (except for taxes and fees), on Southwest flights purchased with points or cash. This pass lasts the remainder of the calendar year in which you earn it, and the full calendar year after that.
The popularity of the Companion Pass among travelers is no wonder: It can save flyers thousands of dollars in fares. You need 110,000 qualifying points or 100 qualifying one-way flights in a calendar year to qualify for this pass. Assuming the terms on the Companion Pass remain the same as Southwest adds service to Hawaii, this pass will soon become even more valuable. Snagging a buy-one-get-one-free deal on flights to Hawaii can save you plenty.
Ideal credit card options for traveling to Hawaii
The airline’s co-branded personal credit cards — the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card, and the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card — already offer outstanding value for those who fly in the continental U.S. But soon, they might also be some of the best cards for folks traveling to Hawaii, too.
All three of of these cards offer sign-up bonuses that get cardholders considerably closer to Southwest’s extremely valuable Companion Pass. Pair that with their easy-to-redeem rewards and 100% award seat availability, and these cards might become the top choice for those who travel to Hawaii frequently.
More credit card tips from NerdWallet