This morning, Southwest blew up the blogosphere with news that at long last they are starting service to Hawaii (See: Southwest to Hawaii from $49 / 2K points!). Whether you’re excited because you’ve got a Companion Pass ready to rock and roll or because of the heat you hope this puts on legacy carriers to drop their fares, it’s probably good news from most perspectives. However, official information was nonexistent this morning. Here’s more about what we know from announcements and/or trial and error.
Service from Oakland starts 3/17, starting fares from $49
That’s less than two weeks away. Starting fares of $49 seems insanely low, especially when you consider the fact that Southwest includes two checked bags free. On the flip side, most people aren’t going to book a trip to Hawaii on 2 weeks notice, so I imagine they know those first flights will go out with a lot of empty seats. That’s good news for those looking to sprawl out. While I bet a lot of hobby enthusiasts will book that first week, I imagine there will be a number of empty seats in week 2 and week 3.
That said, note that the March flights are all showing sold out now. I imagine there is a lot of speculative booking going on and that will change in the coming days.
San Jose starts in May
Those looking to fly from across the Bay will have to wait until May. As you can see above, service to Honolulu starts 5/5 and to Maui on 5/26, with Kona beginning on 5/12.
Inter-island starts 5/12
Flights between Honolulu and Kona (on The Big Island) begin on 5/12, with flights available that first week from just $29. Alternatively, book with 1,329 points. That’s fantastic for inter-island flights, which often cost $100.
Connecting itineraries from the Chicago and Baltimore start in April
I was able to find connecting itineraries to Hawaii from cities in the Western US starting in March. However, for those further East, I see connecting itineraries from Chicago and Baltimore starting from the second week of April.
However, I do not see itineraries returning from Hawaii to the Midwest and East Coast. I suspect that is because they would require an overnight connection. You may be able to book these over the phone. Alternatively, in the interest of getting something booked, I’d recommend just booking a flight from Hawaii to Oakland and a separate flight from Oakland home as time may be of the essence on cheap flights.
Flights aren’t so cheap once the summertime hits
I initially saw flights one-way from Baltimore to Honolulu from around $162 or just over 9,000 points in April.
However, if you want to travel in the middle of the summer, fares are significantly higher for now. These are one-way fares from Baltimore to Honolulu in July. Not exactly the low prices most would have hoped to see.
However, if you can wait until September, fares become reasonable again. Here is Baltimore to Maui in September, with fares from $208 or about 13,000 points one-way. If you have a Companion Pass, that’s still a steal.
Taxes & fees are weird
On some itineraries, I’ve seen weird taxes & fees. For instance, I booked this one early on:
I have no idea why the taxes were $14.90 instead of the $5.60 usually charged on a domestic itinerary. The fare breakdown shows an additional tax that I haven’t seen on Southwest itineraries before.
However, adding the Companion on that flight came to $5.60, as expected.
That said, I received an error when trying to purchase the companion seat on that flight. I ended up having to just book a separate seat, though for less than 2K points, I won’t lose sleep.
Interestingly, I later booked a connecting itinerary where the taxes came to the $5.60 per passenger that would be expected. Furthermore, I was able to add a companion for $5.60 immediately after booking — the $9.30 transportation tax didn’t show up on any of the confirmations.
How you can find the best prices
To find the lowest prices, use the low-fare calender function that I used for calendar screen shots above. You’ll find that tool here.
While some of the best prices have dried up since we posted this morning alerting readers to the fact that tickets were finally on sale, there are still deals to be found and things will surely be fluid in the coming days as people shore up and/or cancel plans.
If you’re looking to travel later in the year, fares are still fantastic, especially considering 2 free checked bags per passenger and the outsized value for Companion Pass holders. Overall, this is great news for those looking to spend some time in paradise.
Final tip: get those hotels booked sooner rather than later. There is going to be some sudden competition for rooms. If you’re looking for some recent info on Hawaii hotels, you can find posts about my recent stays at the Grand Hyatt Kauai, Andaz Maui, and Hyatt Regency Maui here: