Jaws were dropping at the airport on Monday after Southwest Airlines announced its introductory prices to travelers.
Passengers who landed from Oakland were surprised to hear what Southwest was offering one-way from where they just flew in from.
Northern California resident Steven Giannoni said he paid about $400 round-trip from Oakland to Honolulu.
He was shocked once he heard about the $49 special one-way fares.
Hawaii residents were very happy to hear the news.
“I think it’s great,” said Honolulu resident and frequent traveler Maureen Paulo.
“I think for us it’s amazing, we live in Hawaii and we have the most expensive flights there are leaving Honolulu to go to other places,” she said.
“Just flying from Honolulu to San Jose was $600, Southwest prices are really competitive and for that to be available, I think it’s going to blow everyone out of the water,” Paulo said.
KHON2 spoke to one student who flies from Hawaii to California during school break to see her family.
“This is just super exciting because I have a ton of friends who want to come and now they finally get a chance to,” said student Van Nguyen.
An aviation expert says the real competition will be inter-island flights.
“There’s going to be additional competition inter-island which is good for the consumers but I think in the long run we have to take a look at Southwest’s prices that they charge on the mainland for similar distances, which really aren’t that hugely different than Hawaiian Airlines’ right now,” said aviation historian Peter Forman.
Southwest will operate its first inter-island services four times daily in each direction. For now, that service includes Honolulu, Kahului, Kona and Lihue.
“Southwest is feeling the waters, they’re going to see what kind of response they’re going to get and if they’re profitable with their four flights, they’re going to add more. So it’s a game of let’s see what happens,” said Forman.
“I think Hawaiian Airlines wants to keep as much of their revenue as possible right now so they’re going to be carefully adjusting which flights they give the discounts to but they will, on some flights, match Southwest flights—so there’s going to be a lot of good inter-island opportunities in the near future,” he said.
He says one disadvantage for Southwest is using 737-800 planes for island hopping because it takes longer for passengers to get on and off the plane. Whereas Hawaiian Airlines can turn their inter-island flights in just 20 minutes.
“I think Southwest is going to discover the short segments to and from [let’s say Honolulu and Maui], that’s going to be more expensive flying than they realize because the wear and tear on the engines on those short hops and that’s why Hawaiian was very careful on selecting Boeing 717s, so these are all things Southwest is going to have to learn and factor in over time,” Forman said.
KHON2 asked Hawaiian Airlines for a statement regarding Southwest’s introductory prices. The airline said:
Fares fluctuate on a daily basis in the airline industry and introductory fares are especially typical. We have responded to some of Southwest’s introductory offers, and as we do every day, we will continue to offer guests throughout our network competitive fares and superior value with award-winning Hawaiian hospitality throughout our cabin, complimentary meals, and leading punctuality.