Southwest Airlines to Resume Hawaii Expansion, Also Plans Cozumel

Jul 25, 2019

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Southwest Airlines has generated a lot of buzz with its Hawaii service, both in the long run-up to the launch and again when service actually began.

New routes to Honolulu (HNL) and Kahului (OGG) on Maui launched from the California cities of Oakland (OAK) and San Jose (SJC) in March amid much fanfare. Select interisland service has also been added since the initial launch, including flights between Honolulu and Kona (KOA) that began in May. More Hawaii routes were planned, including flights from San Diego (SAN) and Sacramento (SMF).

But then Southwest’s Hawaii plans hit a snag. The March grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX unexpectedly left the carrier short of planes and forced it to recalibrate its schedule.

That meant Southwest was not able to ramp up its Hawaii service as quickly as originally intended.

Related: The Best Southwest Airlines Credit Card for Family Travelers

But Southwest appears ready to return Hawaii to the forefront.

“We are very pleased with the results from our initial waves of Hawaii service, which began back in March,” Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said in a Thursday statement accompanying the carrier’s second-quarter earnings. “Demand for Southwest service to, from, and within Hawaii is robust.”

He acknowledged that “the lack of available aircraft, due to the MAX groundings, resulted in expansion delays to Hawaii.”

Now, however, Kelly says “we are excited to resume growth plans next month with the first of several intended announcements. We will offer service to the Islands from both Sacramento and San Diego, as well as bring Southwest service to both Lihue, on Kauai, and Hilo, on the Island of Hawaii.”

Southwest president Tom Nealon, speaking during the airline’s second-quarter results call Thursday, declined to provide additional details on its Hawaii plans except that details will be forthcoming soon.

“We can’t wait to begin those flights,” he said.

(Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
Southwest operations at Honolulu (Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)

Related: Southwest Has Suspended 13 Routes Since Grounding of Boeing 737 MAX

Beyond Hawaii, Southwest also looked to another warm-weather destination for a new destination: Cozumel (CZM), Mexico.

Cozumel is an island in the Caribbean, sitting just off the coast of Playa del Carmen and Mexico’s Riviera Maya. While Cancun – located about 30 miles north of Playa del Carmen – is the top airport for most Americans heading to the region, Cozumel serves as a popular secondary airport for the area.

Southwest said it hoped to begin Cozumel service in the first quarter of 2020, pending regulatory approvals. The airline plans to offer year-round service from Houston Hobby (HOU).

Cozumel would become Southwest’s fourth destination in Mexico, joining Cancun (CUN); Los Cabos (SJD) and Puerto Vallarta (PVR). It previously served Mexico City (MEX), but dropped the destination in March.

Contributing: Edward Russell, TPG. Featured image by Jessica Puckett/TPG.

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