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Kauai waits for Southwest flights

LIHUE — Southwest Airlines threw out some low prices for service to and from Hawaii on Monday, with the first flight between Oakland and Honolulu scheduled on March 17.

Flights were starting as low as $49 for a one-way ticket from Oakland, but as Kauai’s Padraic Gallagher found out Monday, those tickets are already sold out.

“They’re all booked,” Gallagher said at about noon on Monday. “I tried.”

The flights are the first of many that Southwest is laying out over the next few months, including interisland travel that’s set to begin on April 28.

Flights to and from Kauai haven’t yet been announced. Tuesday, Southwest Airlines spokesman Brad Hawkins said that’s in the works.

“We don’t have any news yet for Kauai but expect additional announcements in the coming weeks as we build out our initial wave of service for Hawaii,” Hawkins said.

Southwest has announced service starting May 5 to Honolulu from San Jose International Airport, and from San Jose to Maui on May 26.

Interisland travel will start April 28 between Honolulu and Kahului, with flights being scheduled four times daily in each direction. After that, service between Honolulu and Hawaii Island will begin May 12, with four daily flights in each direction.

“As we answer the call for Southwest in Hawaii with an initial schedule of service that speaks to a long-held hope of our customers, I applaud and congratulate our people for their steady and impressive work,” said Southwest Airlines’ CEO Gary Kelly in a press release.

People on Kauai are already looking at what’s coming down the line for inexpensive flights, and several said their hope is Southwest’s arrival will bring down costs for everyone.

“I haven’t looked much into Southwest, but it’s my opinion that it might be good for Hawaiian Airlines to have some competition,” said North Shore resident Rebecca Hart.

She said she wouldn’t be shocked to see cheaper interisland travel for a while, and then to see Southwest start struggling to offer competitive prices, though.

“Are they going to be able to stay?” she asked. “I love traveling interisland and it’s good for the island economies, good for the keiki, good for the culture.”

Currently, Southwest is hailing flights between Honolulu and Kona that would cost $29 each way, and $79 flights between Oakland and San Jose and Kona.

Gallagher said he’s also highly anticipating the interisland travel opportunities, particularly flights between Kauai and Oahu.

“I think it’s going to increase the competition for Hawaiian Airlines,” he said. “They have a monopoly (right now).”

Peter Ingram, Hawaiian Airlines president and CEO, recently said it was ready for competition from Southwest.

He noted Hawaiian already competes with American, United, Delta, Alaska, Japan Airlines and Qantas.

“We compete with all of them and we do it very well,” Ingram said.

Hawaiian Airlines has long maintained its fares are fair and if it were easy and inexpensive to operate interisland flights, more airlines would try. Island Air shut down its Hawaii operations, after 37 years, in November 2017. Aloha Airlines closed in March 2008.

Ingram said Hawaiian focuses on taking care of its guests, not by copying what other airlines are doing.

“It’s a tough business,” Ingram said. “We don’t always get it perfect. We know there’s lots of opportunities for improvement.”

Hart, who helps with music and event planning on Kauai, said she’s looking forward to seeing what kind of fares will follow Southwest’s introductory fares, as it might help with bringing shows to Kauai.

“As someone who does events, we’d love to have more music here, and that would be helped with inexpensive flights,” Hart said.

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Jessica Else, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0452 or jelse@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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