Last weekend I reported about Southwest and the rumors swirling regarding their Hawaii operations. Based on information I gained from a casual conversation on a beach in Kona with a Southwest senior employee, it was clear that Denver would be in the mix. But Southwest hasn’t said so in their announcement, in fact they haven’t said much of anything.
An Open Secret
I mentioned in my previous post that Southwest sponsored a Hawaii tourism event and held a prominent role… but did not make an announcement for flights as speculated. Gary Kelly has long stated that Hawaii was in the plans and it wasn’t a matter of “if” but rather “when” Southwest would start to fly to the islands.
I had mentioned in my Unsubstantiated Gossip post that I speculated they would fly to Kona from Denver but Honolulu was also mentioned as an option. Why? Because the market aligns with Southwest’s customer base due to the affordability of hotel cost when compared with the rest of the islands. They have nearly validated such an assumption.
That’s not to say that Southwest customers are all value customers. In my previous post I outlined how Southwest is no longer a value brand and in fact is at least as expensive as competitors or more expensive 65% of the time. Their point-to-point model and willingness to load mid-tier and smaller markets with plenty of destinations is key to growing their business marketshare and domestic-based consultants have responded.
That being said, Honolulu is easily the most recognizable Hawaiian destination (Maui is close behind). Plenty of hotels are available in the lower to mid-tier market in Honolulu whereas other islands do not necessarily serve those markets.
For some travelers this only makes the Companion Pass and Southwest credit card offers more attractive. One important consideration, however, is their fleet is not ideal for overnight travel and redeye flights. Due to the time change and distance however, it’s nearly a forgone conclusion that westbound flights happen during the day and many return flights to the mainland come back overnight just as US-Europe flights do.
While I will pay a little extra to board early and snag an exit row seat on a flight of that distance and flight time, I am not sure I am signing up for a redeye on a Southwest flight. How many others will follow? Will they finally sell exit rows and bulkhead seats (as they now have the ability to do in their system)?
Can Southwest get the Hawaii revenue premium without Economy Plus and first class options? Allegiant flies to the islands but also sell those seats in advance. It remains to be seen if we see a change in Southwest’s sales model or what the customer response for a truly all-economy product will be.
So What Did Southwest Announce?
Southwest released a video on Facebook that they will be flying to Hawaii. No big secret there, though for the average flyer, this was probably news. What did they reveal?
- Southwest will begin selling tickets for Hawaii in 2018 subject to government approval.
- The announcement was made on Waikiki beach with Diamond Head in the background suggesting that Honolulu will be at least one of their destinations.
- They announced Southwest is currently certifying operations for ETOPS flying (extended range twin-engine operational performance standards) meaning that they will be flying a significant distance over open water with 737s.
That’s about as much of a non-announcement as you can make. But nonetheless it does confirm that they will be going to Hawaii, and likely Honolulu will be one of their destinations if not a key. Diamond Head and Waikiki beach are also some of the most recognizable landmarks associated with Hawaii generally.
What markets do you think they will serve? Would you fly Southwest without being able to reserve a better space seat on a long-haul redeye?