Southwest adds additional flights to mainland

  • A Southwest plane passes over Hilo while arriving at Hilo International Airport on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020. (Kelsey Walling/Hawaii Tribune-Herald)

  • A Southwest plane is parked at Hilo International Airport on Thursday, May 20, 2021. (Kelsey Walling/Hawaii Tribune-Herald)

New Southwest Airlines flights to Hawaii will offer more opportunities for local residents to travel to the mainland, Big Island tourism officials say.

Southwest earlier this month announced it will launch new nonstop flights from Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Phoenix to a number of Hawaiian destinations — including Kailua-Kona — in the coming weeks and months.

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Nonstop, once-daily flights between Las Vegas and Kailua-Kona begin on Sept. 7, while a daily flight between Los Angeles and Kailua-Kona will start June 27. Flights between Phoenix and Kailua-Kona begin Sept. 7.

“We delivered on the second, most-asked request we’ve heard from people in Hawaii — after we answered a call to offer affordable interisland flying as part of our initial entry into Hawaii in spring 2019 — by connecting Hawaii with nonstop service to Las Vegas, ‘the ninth island’ …,” Andrew Watterson, chief commercial officer and executive vice president for Southwest Airlines, said in a news release.

Southwest also will offer additional flights to neighbor islands from San Diego, Long Beach, San Jose and Oakland, including a new once-daily, nonstop flight between San Diego and Kailua-Kona beginning June 27.

Service from Kona to San Diego initially will operate Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, and increase to daily service on Sept. 7.

“We’re building on an era of affordability that Southwest initiated for Hawaii air travel,” Watterson said. “These new flights bring Hawaii service closer to more of our customers who live near airports across the west, and make it possible to choose Southwest to fly between the Aloha State and cities as far east as Nashville, without spending an entire overnight in the air.

“We believe Southwest offers an economy product to Hawaii, which customers will find comfortable and seating with ample legroom for all, free onboard entertainment for all, flexible policies for all, and our multi-award winning warmth of hospitality seamlessly aligns with the aloha spirit.”

It’s “absolutely great news” that Big Island residents now have more direct access to the mainland, said Ross Birch, executive director of the Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau.

While there will be greater demand for travel to Hawaii from the mainland throughout the year, Birch said Southwest will provide benefit to residents looking to fly out of the state.

“These are areas where most of our local residents are frequenting. … We see this as a great opportunity for local residents (to) travel on the mainland and (have) accessibility to the mainland.”

The additional flights also will have a slight effect on pricing, which Birch said is favorable for both visitors and residents.

Having more seats to meet demand helps “to keep those prices in a good spot for us,” he said.

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According to Birch, this will be the first time the Big Island has had direct access to Las Vegas, while other routes are “well serviced by other carriers.”

Birch said the visitors bureau is anticipating that Big Island arrival numbers through May and the summer will be “equal to, if not surpassing, our 2019 arrivals.”

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