July 2, 2022 by
This week, Hawaii newcomer Southwest Airlines made a big announcement, the result of which will be fares below the current sale level of $29 on interisland flights. And that could have a boomerang effect on lowering many mainland fares while Hawaii simultaneously wrestles with managing increased tourism and exorbitant hotel costs. But back to airfares. Does anyone see $19 on interisland? We do, and here’s why.
This news comes at a time when Hawaii is experiencing both unprecedented domestic travel and never-before-seen competition between bellwether Hawaiian Airlines and Southwest Airlines. The announcement came at the very same moment as last week’s short-lived $29 Hawaii airfare sale.
The number of SWA interisland flights is currently in the 30s each day, but within the next two months, that’ll be at least 60 flights daily.
Hawaii is so important to Southwest that this week their new CEO, Bob Jordan, and others ventured nearly 4,000 miles from the company’s home base in Texas to attend a business meeting on Kauai. The event was a lunch meeting of Chamber of Commerce members. It was Jordan’s first time here.
While Southwest said its reasoning for this visit was solely to develop a relationship with Kauai and Hawaii, the event was also used as a platform to announce that the company plans to nearly double interisland flights starting very soon.
Southwest spent a decade planning its arrival in Hawaii, and it’s made a big splash, some well-received and some less so. But, as Jordan pointed out, they have a massive base of California customers, and what those customers want are flights to Hawaii.
Some have complained that Southwest attracts low-spending tourists, which many believe cannot support the needs of the state going forward. Hawaii seeks to be a premium travel destination rather than a discount one.
As far as additional flights are concerned, long-awaited ones on the nonstop Maui-to-Kauai route are coming. Those have been particularly premium on Hawaiian Airlines, which has been the only carrier offering that route. Even with the anticipated arrival of the Southwest flights on the route, prices have dropped, and we’ve been able to get tickets for 1/2 of what they were previously. Call that the Southwest effect.
The airline will also add more flights between Honolulu and Maui, Honolulu and Kona, and Honolulu and Kauai.
Hawaiian Airlines is very aware of Southwest and its current and potential future impact on Hawaii. Hawaii is obviously all that Hawaiian does, and there are no stops they won’t pull out to affect their business goals. Whatever that price needs to be, it will be. The latest development will impact every route where the two companies compete, both to and from Hawaii and within the state.
On Saturday, Southwest was experiencing delays on 26% of their flights at Honolulu (Hawaiian was at 11%) and on 34% of their flights at Maui (Hawaiian was at 18%). Because Southwest doesn’t have a fleet of planes based in Hawaii, they rely on aircraft serving their mainland flights for interisland service. We just wrote about that in much more detail in Southwest Hawaii Business Model Headwinds Amid Industry Woes.
Bob Jordan has been with Southwest since 1988. He joined the company as a programmer and has held 15 different positions. A diehard veteran, Jordon assumed the role as CEO of the $22B company earlier this year. He was passed the baton by predecessor Gary Kelly and told, “you’ll figure it out.”
At least to our knowledge, this week marked the first time a Southwest CEO has visited Hawaii. That says a lot about the importance of the islands in the company’s plans. We met prior company president Tom Nealon, when he came to Honolulu for their Hawaii launch in 2019. Interestingly, Nealon was passed over for the CEO position, then abruptly quit as president last year.
Jordon takes the helm at a time of turmoil with problems of on-time performance and pilot disputes that are, to a large degree, industry-wide.
Filed Under: Hawaii Travel News
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July 4, 2022 at 9:36 pm
SWA is providing much needed competition to Hawaiian, and we are all the better for it. Your bias towards Hawaiian Airlines shows through loud and clear. Southwest fly’s millions of passengers a year safely, economically, and for the most part, on time with Texas style Aloha!
July 4, 2022 at 12:32 pm
I can understand the frustration with the airlines and the large number of tourists. Going to Hawaii isn’t cheap so I don’t understand what low-spending tourists are. There are other places to travel and the travel industry is very beneficial to Hawaii so I hope they don’t kill the goose that laid the golden egg. Sure, so locals do not see it this way but many rely on the travel industry for their livelyhood. Hopefully, a solution is forthcoming.
July 4, 2022 at 11:46 am
I made an earlier comment regarding the potential benefits of airline competition on Moloka’i. Just to be clear, I’m a resident and the cost to go off island for medical, dental, and, yes, some shopping for things that are not here or 3x the cost elsewhere, is monopolized by a single carrier.
July 4, 2022 at 10:26 am
This is good news for most islands but I did not see Moloka’i mentioned. We are at the mercy of Mokulele and their prices are skyrocketing faster than gasoline. They need competition especially since Ohana Air dropped out during the pandemic. Some quick research will show there is a market for Southwest on Moloka’i.
Thank you and I hope we see interisland competition coming to Moloka’i.
July 4, 2022 at 8:03 am
I find this to be a strange move by Southwest. Most visitors to Hawaii these days don’t have much interest in island hopping. It is not because of cost, it is because of convenience. When my family visits Hawaii, we prefer to go to one island and spend the duration of our vacation on that island. I think that’s how most visitors are. Each of the four major islands have so much to do! The fact that the Southwest Airlines CEO has never even visited Hawaii until now tells me that maybe he doesn’t understand how people vacation in Hawaii in the 21st century. Island hopping was a much bigger thing 40 years ago when vacations to Hawaii were more of a once in a lifetime type of experience. A lot of families take annual trips to Hawaii now.
July 4, 2022 at 12:19 pm
I find it easy to understand, Island hopping became unaffordable for many after the recession of 2009-2011 which caused the demise of Aloha Airlines. Competition is the cornerstone of free markets.
July 4, 2022 at 6:09 am
My Grandparent lived on Makaha Beach in the 1960’s & 70′. I’ve flown from the mainland to one on the islands 18 times. However, to visit friends, I have to travel to Molokai. A $19 fare on Hawaiian or SW does no good when Mokulele is the only airline serving the Island and the onoy rental car company has a monompoly on cars. It costs me $1500 just to fly from Kona to Molokai and rent a car for a week.
July 4, 2022 at 5:53 am
Southwest’s game plan is to come in with artificially low rates and have the legacy carrier retract on routes. Those low fares don’t stay forever. American used to fly between Vegas and Reno, then SW drove them off the route now it is one of the most expensive short hauls since SW has zero competition.
July 3, 2022 at 2:33 pm
A person can be respectful (or disrespectful) of local culture and nature no matter their socioeconomic status. I’ve met rich jerks as well as poor jerks and middle class jerks. I’ve also met nice, caring people in all categories.
Does a wealthy visitor spending all of their money with big companies who send their profits out of state help the Hawaiian economy better than our planned Mom & Pop restaurant and eatery extravaganza?
Thank you to all trying to protect paradise, but income isn’t necessarily the litmus test needed.
July 3, 2022 at 12:03 pm
Some local folks act like vacationers just book a plane ticket and don’t realize they’ll have to pay for anything else In Hawaii. That’s not the case and competition is good.
Spending less on airfare means being able to spend more at local stores & restaurants .
July 3, 2022 at 11:08 am
The cheap airfares are good for consumers but as this article points out, there is a noticeably different tourist that it is attracting. There are a lot of people that realize they can get to paradise for a buck fifty then sleep in tents atop their Rent-A-Wrecks all along our beaches.
July 4, 2022 at 7:27 am
You are confusing the visitors with locals…those in tents aren’t here on vacation, notice the pidgin coming out of their mouth.
Too often, it is obvious, that the real issue is jealousy and envy that someone else has saved their money and can travel.
July 3, 2022 at 10:06 am
I’d love to visit neighbor islands but with hotel prices so high, it makes no sense to do so regardless of $19 interisland fares. And who wants to deal with the airports anyway?
July 3, 2022 at 9:46 am
Then USAirways started flying into Honolulu and directly to the out islands at comparatively inexpensive fares. We noticed a distinctly different attitude on the part of these people. I vividly recall one time when USAirways had a mechanical at Lihue that was going to seriously delay departure. They gave the delayed passengers vouchers and sent them to the Kauai Marriott. I was sitting at the Kalapoki Grill and heard some of these delayed passengers speak to the folks working the grill in languages and tones best described as ranging from snarky to snarly because the vouchers weren’t covering what they ordered. In my view, they were confusing “rights” with privileges. Something the vast majority of clientele up to that time would nev
July 3, 2022 at 9:45 am
Regarding your commentary, “Some have complained that Southwest attracts low-spending tourists, which many believe cannot support the needs of the state going forward. Hawaii seeks to be a premium travel destination rather than a discount one.” I’ve thought long and hard how to say this without sounding snobbish or worse. Here’s the best I can come up with:
We’ve owned a timeshare in Kauai for 23 years. For the first 5-10 years, Kauai and Hawaii in general was a premium destination. Importantly, the people who came to the islands in this time frame struck us as respectful – of the ocean, the land and the people – and enjoying the privilege of being in one of the most beautiful places on earth.
July 3, 2022 at 9:14 am
Aloha Rob +Jeff. After all the “over tourism”articles, this new story seems to really exacerbate the ongoing situation.I also am concerned about the air and ocean pollution from all these extra inter-island flights. Why so many? Are they really necessary? It really looks like it’s getting out of control on so many levels. Very sad! I am feeling for the island people and their way of life being overrun by these overeager CEO’s greed.
July 3, 2022 at 6:53 am
While I anticipate some locals may view this development differently, locals who need to travel between islands are sure to benefit from lower prices.
The free market in action…
July 3, 2022 at 6:52 am
I won’t fly Southwest to/from/in Hawaii. They use the Max on those routes. The Boeing had two preventable crashes and appears to still be having problems.
July 3, 2022 at 5:29 am
For a destination that wants to increase cultural awareness and limit mass market tourism, I can’t imagine why Hawaii would welcome airfares in this range…for locals and residents, it’s good news for their personal use. However, every airfare sale/price war results in more planes full of uninformed travelers looking for that all-inclusive experience with no interest in history or culture. This baffles me, especially with all the service issues at airports worldwide right now!
July 3, 2022 at 8:10 am
I would disagree with your implied premise that travelers with lower budgets are more uninformed or less culturally aware than those with larger budgets.
July 4, 2022 at 4:17 pm
I also disagree.I began my uncanny love affair with Hawaiian islands at 7 years old. My Dad just thought it was amazing how I was drawn to anything Hawaii.When I became a state at my age of 9, it was so very cool.When i graduated, it was my dream to hop on a plane and also island hop all over the islands,not once, many times.It was affordable, and very easy, very easy to travel I am cultured, yet low income, I have class, but not alot of money. I set our dinner table with the most proper setting, and yet we have meatloaf or sloppy joes.I would love to be able to enjoy the islands one more time and visit them all affordably.The flights would definitely help me do this.the condo/car would still be too high even with lower flights.
July 3, 2022 at 9:08 am
It helps locals who needs to fly to the mainland to see family there. You can raise prices of hotels to advance the goal to ration tourism.
July 3, 2022 at 10:12 pm
Do you have any interest in history & culture when you travel to the the 9th Island? Until most residents of the islands show respect for history & culture of Hawaii I can’t go all in on that angle as a visitor.
Growth is not a four letter word. It can be a very good thing when properly managed. Tourism supports the “everything is free for residents” mantra while treating visitors with less than aloha spirit.
How can Hawaii be a premium destination while infrastructure is being ignored. The roads, highways & traffic congestion are as terrible as anywhere on the mainland. And the quaint airports aren’t so quaint anymore.
Do you really want to kill the golden goose?
July 3, 2022 at 2:47 am
In other States people can drive to visit families and friends, here in Hawaii islands is separated by body of ocean, Not able to drive to and from, with South West Air line low prices, it makes a dream happen, family and friends living in Hawaii able to keep close contacts with each other on their special events. today driving on the dangerous highways is a challenge. Thank you South West Airline for helping people of Hawaii who is traveling to visit family and friends is much safer.
July 4, 2022 at 4:22 pm
Earl F. I just love that this would allow you to obtain medical and visit family more affordable. It is really due for you locals! I hope this is for real and works out easily for you. Having affordable flights is one thing, having it done seamlessly is another in this world of pilot shortages and over tourism.