Southwest Airlines service launch brings delight for many travelers

Published on : Thursday, March 28, 2019

The launch of Southwest Airlines service to Hawaii has brought delight for many travelers who want a good bargain, but it’s also giving rise to questions about the long-term impact on a destination where hotel occupancies and room rates are already among the highest in the U.S.


The low-cost carrier also aims to expand its services from Oakland to Maui on April 7 and to Kona on May 12. Service from San Jose, California to Maui, Honolulu, and Kona is expected to start in May. In addition, Southwest plans to commence inter-island service in Hawaii in April.


Hawaii tourism officials are also quite enthusiastic about Southwest service. Chris Tatum, the CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, believes that its impact will extend beyond the traditionally dominant West Coast market.


To quote Tatum, “Southwest connects to gateways all over the nation and undoubtedly some of their frequent flyers will want to use their points for Hawaii. We definitely think it will attract some new visitors.”


Brown believes that the entry of Southwest into Hawaii, which is already served from the U.S. mainland by United, Delta, American, Alaska and Hawaiian, will mean more competitive airfares across the board.


“I think we’re going to see better deals on all the airlines as a result,” she said. “I don’t expect airlines like Hawaiian to match fares with Southwest, but I do think we will see their fares come down if they have seats to fill.”


While he expects Hawaii airfares, which can be as high as $1,000 from the West Coast during holiday periods, to become more competitive, airline analyst Robert Mann of R.W. Mann & Co. is of the opinion that the impact will be reasonable.


Mann also warns that some consumer excitement might be tempered by Hawaii’s not-so-cheap land costs.


“A week in Hawaii is an aspirational goal for a lot of people, but then you are hit with the high average nightly rate in the islands,” Mann said. “There’s not much Southwest can do about that.”


Mann also said that growing demand, not only from Southwest passengers but from the expanding Asia market might drive Hawaii land costs up further.


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