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Sun Country Announces Hawaii Routes, May Start Service Before Southwest

Jan. 11, 2019
Travel, Travel Deals, Vacations & Trip Planning
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The latest airline to announce new service to Hawaii is ultra-low-cost carrier Sun Country, which plans to fly from San Francisco to Honolulu. It will be one of 19 new seasonal routes for the airline in its largest expansion to date.

Sun Country is expected to launch service to Hawaii on May 18, 2019 in time for the peak summer season, which may or may not be before Southwest Airlines gets its flights up and running. Southwest, the largest of the low-cost carriers, was supposed to start non-stop service from four California cities to one of four airports in Hawaii in 2018, but that has been delayed while the carrier awaits approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.

With Sun Country and Southwest opening up service to Hawaii, there’s a possibility Hawaiian ticket prices could dip because of the additional routes and cheaper options for travelers.

What will it cost?

Rates have not been announced by Southwest yet, but Sun says its one-way rates will start at $259 for the flight. A quick online search shows fares for Sun flights have already been lowered to $249 for May dates, and it’s only been a few days since the service was announced.

Fares on Sun Country’s San Francisco to Honolulu route are competitive with the lowest rates offered by legacy carriers and Hawaiian Airlines, but average rates are higher. Both Hawaiian and United currently have a one-way fare of $219 on May 18, 2019, the day Sun is scheduled to launch service.

Additionally, Hawaiian doesn’t charge a fee for a carry-on, which is expected to cost $35 with Sun. Seat assignments will also cost you, so figure that into the value equation.

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Will Southwest and Sun Country fly the same routes?

Southwest and Sun Country will not be going head-to-head on the San Francisco to Honolulu route, but Southwest plans to fly out of Oakland International Airport just across the bay from San Francisco.

In general, flying from Oakland to Honolulu is already cheaper than flying out of San Francisco, with Hawaiian Airlines offering rates as low as $183 each way on the non-stop route. For Southwest Rapid Rewards members, that means fewer points could be redeemed to get to Honolulu.

» Learn more: 4 things the Southwest Rapid Rewards Program gets right

Sun Country already flies to Honolulu from Los Angeles but has not announced plans to compete in the other California-Hawaii markets Southwest is targeting, which include service from Sacramento, San Diego and San Jose to Kauai, The Big Island and Maui.

What airlines already fly the Southwest routes?

Other airlines, however, are flying those routes, so Southwest will have standing prices to compete with. On the Oakland to Kauai route, for example, Hawaiian and Alaska have fares starting around $200 mid-May. The lowest current fare from Sacramento to Kauai is $268 on Alaska. Meanwhile, American, Delta and United all have the route priced at $328.

For frequent flyers looking to redeem the points, United charges 45,000 miles to fly round trip from San Francisco to Hawaii, so expect low-cost carriers like Sun Country and Southwest to be less. Additionally, Southwest’s two free checked bags, open seating and cheap Wanna Get Away fares mean fewer points could get you further when traveling to paradise.

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2020, including those best for:

Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice:
Southwest Rapid Rewards program: The complete guide
The Southwest Companion Pass: Why you want it and how to get it
Which Southwest credit card should I choose?

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