March 4, 2019

Southwest service from Bay Area to Hawaii finally off the ground

Source: San Francisco Chronicle

Southwest Airlines on Monday announced its long-anticipated service from the Bay Area to Hawaii, with twice-daily flights from Oakland to Honolulu starting March 17 and from Oakland to Kahului airport on Maui beginning April 7.

It will begin flying once daily from San Jose to Honolulu and Kahului on May 5 and May 26, respectively.

Promotional fares of $49 each way on those routes sold out within a few hours Tuesday morning, Southwest spokesman Brad Hawkins said.

It will begin flying between Oakland and Kona on the big island of Hawaii and between San Jose and Kona on May 12. On those routes, promotional fares of $79 each way were also selling out quickly.

Southwest announced it would begin service from California to Hawaii in October 2017, and expected to start flying by the end of 2018. But the 35-day partial government shutdown that started in December delayed those plans as Federal Aviation Administration inspectors who needed to certify aircraft were furloughed. Southwest announced last month that the partial shutdown cost it $60 million in revenue.

Last week, the FAA finally gave Southwest permission to fly its Boeing 737-800 aircraft over water to Hawaii. Eventually, it will begin flying its much newer aircraft, the Boeing 737-MAX, on those routes. Both are narrow-body planes seating 175.

Its entry into the field is likely to bring fares down and put the most pressure on Hawaiian Airlines, said Darryl Genovesi, an airline analyst with Vertical Research Partners.

United has the largest market share, 34 percent, on flights between California and Hawaii based on “available seat miles,” a common measure of capacity that refers to one aircraft seat, occupied or empty, flown 1 mile.

Hawaiian Airlines is second-largest with 27 percent of that market, but it’s a much smaller airline and more concentrated on those routes, Genovesi said. Alaska, American and Delta are the next-largest, with market shares of 15, 13 and 11 percent, respectively.

Southwest has announced no plans to fly to Hawaii from San Francisco International, but it could happen at some point, Hawkins said.

Southwest also will start inter-island service beginning April 28 between Honolulu and Kahului (Maui), and May 12 between Honolulu and Kona on the big island of Hawaii.

Southwest also plans to fly to Hawaii from Sacramento and San Diego, and to Lihue airport on the island of Kauai.

Oakland is Southwest’s 13th-largest airport based on available seat miles. San Jose and Sacramento rank 19th and 20th overall. SFO is 29th, according to Genovesi.

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