Southwest announces Sacramento-Hawaii flights, but blockbuster $99 fares sell out fast

If you’re still looking for that $99 one-fare from Sacramento to Hawaii, Southwest Airlines says sorry, sold out.

The airline’s announcement Thursday morning that it will launch daily flights in January between the capital city and Honolulu triggered a tsunami of interest from Northern California fliers, selling out the limited number of $99 tickets within hours.

Those tickets were available only on Tuesdays and Wednesdays between Jan. 19, the launch day, and March 6, the furthest-out booking day currently available..

A Bee mid-afternoon Thursday review of the Southwest ticketing website showed most flights on those days now going for $179 and $199. Fares on return flights were similar.

The long-awaited daily non-stop 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 announced it is adding flights from Oakland and San Jose to Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii and to Lihue on Kauai, starting Jan. 21. Southwest currently flies daily from those two airports to Honolulu on the island of Oahu.

Southwest also will launch intra-island flights in January between Honolulu and three island airports: Hilo on the Big Island, Lihue on Kauai and Kahului on Maui. Those flights will start with $29 one-way fares, offered today through Aug. 22.

The announcement means Sacramento fliers now will have three airline options for trips to the 50th state. Two other airlines, Hawaiian and Alaska, already offer daily nonstop flights to the islands.

Andrew Watterson, Southwest executive vice president, said Southwest expects the new Honolulu service to be popular, and could lead to more Hawaiian island service in the future. The airline had originally hoped to offer the service last year.

“It’s a bit delayed, but we are excited to offer Hawaii to our Sacramento customers,” he said. “Many people have been saving up their points to redeem to go to Hawaii.”

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.

“We are confident this will be a great service, especially in mid-January when we have the rains here,” Sacramento airport executive Cindy Nichol said. “We think we will do really well on the route and we will do everything we can to prove we should have additional service.”

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

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.

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

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