Southwest speeds launch date for $99 Sacramento-Hawaii flights, adds service to Maui

Saying ticket demand has been strong, Southwest Airlines announced today it will move up its launch date for flights from Sacramento to Hawaii by several months and will add service next year between the capital city and Maui.

The new flight launch date for daily nonstops from Sacramento to Honolulu on the island of Oahu is Nov. 10, allowing the airline to fly between the capital city and islands during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday periods.

Previously, Southwest had planned a Jan. 19 start date for those flights.

Southwest said it also now plans daily nonstop flights from Sacramento to a second island, Maui, starting March 7.

“Demand is strong for our Hawaii service,” prompting the new start dates and added service, said Adam Decaire, a Southwest flight network planning vice president.

Southwest is expected to price some fares to Honolulu at $99 through midnight tonight. The airline will briefly offer some midweek $129 fares to Maui.

The Honolulu flights are scheduled to take off from Sacramento International Airport at 9:45 a.m. and arrive in Honolulu at 1:50 p.m. Hawaii time. Return flights will take off daily at 3:35 p.m. and land here at 10:45 p.m.

The air carrier also is adding flights from Oakland and San Jose to Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii and to Lihue on Kauai. Southwest currently flies daily from those two airports to Honolulu on the island of Oahu.

Southwest also recently announced it will start intra-island flights between Honolulu and three island airports next year: Hilo on the Big Island, Lihue on Kauai and Kahului on Maui.

The airline now says it will begin flying the Honolulu to Kauai route on Nov. 10.

The Southwest announcement intensifies what has become a West Coast-to-Hawaii air battle between three airlines: Southwest, Hawaiian and Alaska. Hawaiian recently announced new direct flights this fall between Maui and Las Vegas.

Sacramento International Airport officials say Southwest’s entry into the Hawaii market likely will push down average island-flight prices among the three airlines as they compete for fliers.

Southwest first announced in May 2018 that it planned to launch nonstop Hawaiian flights from four California cities – Oakland, Sacramento, San Diego and San Jose.

The carrier initiated Oakland and San Jose flights earlier this year, but was then hit with several business setbacks, including the forced grounding of its fleet of 34 Boeing 737 Max 8 jets after two of those aircraft crashed.

Southwest will employ Boeing 737-800 series jets to Hawaii from Sacramento and the other California cities. Those jets have 175 seats.

The air carrier recently said it will keep its Max 8 jets grounded at least through early next year, pending ongoing reviews of the crashes and discussions of safety changes.

Southwest has not yet announced when it will launch flights between San Diego and Hawaii.

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Tony Bizjak has been reporting for The Bee for 30 years. He covers transportation, housing and development and previously was the paper’s City Hall beat reporter.