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Southwest Airlines brought welcome news when they announced their plans to fly to Hawaii. Travelers rejoiced when Southwest said that ticket sales would begin by the end of 2018. However, there are just a few days left and travelers have been left hanging. When will Southwest fly to Hawaii and why is it taking so long?
Southwest Announces Flights to Hawaii
On October 11, 2017, Southwest Airlines announced their intention to fly to Hawaii. The goal was to start selling tickets sometime in 2018. At the time of the announcement, no date was given when flights would begin. However, most people expected Southwest to start flying to Hawaii in 2019.
Why Didn’t They Start Flying Sooner?
Although Hawaii was a long-rumored destination for Southwest Airlines, it was impractical given that Southwest’s entire fleet of airplanes is the Boeing 737. They just didn’t have the range to make it to Hawaii from the West Coast.
You don’t want to run out of fuel or lose an engine halfway to Hawaii. There is literally no place to land a plane in distress except the middle of the ocean.
With the release of the Boeing 737-MAX 8 aircraft, Hawaii (and other long-distance destinations) became a possibility for Southwest. These 4th generation Boeing 737 aircraft are more fuel-efficient and produce less noise than the older 737s in use.
What Cities Will Southwest Fly To Hawaii From?
There is great demand for flights to Hawaii from the West Coast. Initially, all non-stop flights to Hawaii will originate from California. The four airports chosen by Southwest are:
- Oakland Metropolitan Airport (OAK)
- San Diego International Airport (SAN)
- Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC)
- Sacramento International Airport (SMF)
Ironically, there is a big hole in the Los Angeles and Orange County markets for Southwest flights to Hawaii. There is huge population density in this market and Southwest may be alienating them.
I doubt that these SoCal travelers would want to connect in one of the four airports listed above. Nor would they want to drive more than 90 minutes to San Diego to fly to Hawaii when so many other options are available.
What Hawaiian Cities Will Southwest Fly To?
In late April 2018, Southwest announced that its initial plan is to serve four airports in the Hawaiian Islands:
- Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu (HNL)
- Kahului Airport on Maui (OGG)
- Lihue Airport on Kauai (LIH)
- Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keahole (KOA) on the leeward side of The Island of Hawaii
As Southwest develops their flight schedule, they will also begin inter-island service between the airports that they serve.
Why Has There Been A Delay?
As much as Southwest Airlines would love to begin flying immediately, they need to receive government regulator approval before selling tickets. While they wait for government approval, Southwest is feverishly upgrading their fleet to meet Extended Operations (aka ETOPS) standards. This provides a deep-dive into what ETOPS is and why it is necessary for Southwest to fly to Hawaii.
Southwest is waiting for ETOPS 180 certification before they can start selling tickets. ETOPS 180 means that the airplane is within 180-minutes (3 hours) of an airport when flying on one engine.
When Will Sales Begin?
To better answer the question ‘when will Southwest fly to Hawaii’, I think we should take a look at when ticket sales will begin. Everyone is waiting for Southwest Airlines to begin selling flights to Hawaii.
Although Southwest likely will not meet their target of selling tickets before year end, ticket sales are coming soon. At a last week, Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelley said that they are on track to begin ticket sales this winter.
Mr. Kelley said that the process would take 12 to 18 months from when they announced the Hawaiian flights. If Southwest can start selling flights to Hawaii by March 2019, they will be within the 18-month timeframe of their October 2017 announcement.
While this doesn’t specifically answer ‘When will Southwest fly to Hawaii?’, it does provide an idea of the timeframe.
How To Earn Southwest Rapid Rewards Points Quickly
If you need to stock up on Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards points, you have a few options. You can earn points from flying on Southwest, booking rental cars or hotel rooms with their partners, and shopping via their portal.
However, the quickest and most lucrative way to earn Rapid Rewards points is through credit card sign-up bonuses. Southwest has co-branded credit cards to choose from. Points earned through the Chase co-branded cards are eligible for the Companion Pass qualification. The Southwest Companion Pass is one of the best values out there.
Tip regarding a limited time offer: Southwest is allowing you to earn a Companion Pass and 30,000 points if you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months of account opening. This offer ends February 11, 2019. Click here to learn more.
Additionally, Chase Ultimate Rewards can be transferred to Southwest’s loyalty program. However, transfers from Chase Ultimate Rewards to Southwest will not count towards the Companion Pass qualification.
Southwest Credit Cards
There are three personal credit cards and one business version of the Southwest credit card that you can apply for.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card
I recently upgraded my Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card to the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card because I think it offers more value. Although the annual fee is higher with the Priority card, it offers a $75 annual flight credit, four priority boarding passes each year, and 7,500 bonus points every year that I renew the card.
Ultimate Rewards Credit Cards
Southwest has been a transfer partner of the Chase Ultimate Rewards program for years. If you have one of the premium credit cards that earn Ultimate Rewards points, you can transfer points to Southwest Rapid Rewards on a one-to-one basis.
Some Chase credit cards earn Ultimate Rewards points, but you cannot transfer them to airline or hotel partners unless you also have one of the premium Ultimate Rewards cards. These are the credit cards that need to be paired in order to unlock the transfer functionality:
The premium credit cards that allow you to earn Ultimate Rewards points and transfer them to Southwest are:
When Will Southwest Fly to Hawaii Summary
When will Southwest fly to Hawaii? We don’t have an exact date yet. However, with so many options to earn Southwest Rapid Rewards points, you’ll have plenty of points to book your flights as soon as Southwest starts selling them.
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