Review: Southwest Airlines Inter-Island 737-800 (Economy); Honolulu to Maui

Southwest Counter

READ MORE FROM THIS TRIP

Introduction: Dream Trip for My Wife (and daughter) To Hawaii

• Review: Delta Airlines 767-400 (Business); Detroit to Honolulu 
• Review: Delta Sky Club Lounge (Detroit)
• Review: Hyatt Centric Waikiki Beach (Honolulu)
• Review: Southwest Airlines 737-800 Inter-Island (Economy); Honolulu to Maui
• Review: Fairmont Kea Lani (Maui)
• Review: Southwest Airlines (Economy); Maui to Atlanta (via Oakland)

After spending a few days in Honolulu is was time for our departure as we planned to spend the remaining part of our vacation in Maui.

This flight review will be slightly different than other flight reviews as I assume most people have experienced a Southwest Airlines economy flight.

This review will have qualities of a normal trip report but I wanted to focus more on “what’s it like to fly from island to island.”

BOOKING THE FLIGHT

Honolulu (HNL) is the hub for all inter-island flights. From HNL, it should only takes less 45 minutes of flight time to get to all the other major Hawaiian islands on a nonstop flight.

Hawaiian Islands

And the prices are PHENOMENAL! These are the prices for a one-way flight. Hawaiian Airlines used to have a monopoly on inter-island flights and charged more than $100 each way so you can imagine what effect Southwest has had, both, for Hawaiian airlines AND in this market overall.

Southwest Prices (HNL-OGG)

Southwest is unique in the fact that the number of points required for a redemption are tied to the price of the ticket. It’s impossible to extract extreme value out of the points because it depends on the price the ticket. However, this is how much the $29 tickets require with points:

Is gets even better if you have the Southwest Companion Pass…AND I DO! For simplicity, this means that my wife (my companion) will be flying for free and my daughter will also be flying for free because she is less than 2 years old.

I selected a day when the tickets were $29 so we were able to extract some great value. 3 for 1…cha-ching!

Southwest Airlines Economy Class 737-800 Review

Southwest Airlines Flight 637
Honolulu (HNL) – Maui (OGG)

Scheduled Departure: 11:45PM
Scheduled Arrival: 12:30PM
Duration: 45min
Aircraft: Boeing 737-800
Seat: No assigned seats on Southwest. Just pick one! (Economy Class)

When we arrived there were several self-service check-in kiosks available.

Southwest Check-In Kiosks

However, we were directed to the ‘Additional Assistance Line’ which is typical for families that are traveling with infants (sorry, the photo is blurry. I was lazy and did not check it before moving on).

Southwest Check-In Desk

We were welcomed at the counter by a cordial representative. Check-in was easy and within minutes we were given our tickets and on our way to our flight out of Gate G8.

We breezed through security, turned left and proceeded to our gate. Although, the HNL airport layout looks small and simple, Gates G7-G10 are located in the Diamond Head Concourse which is easily a 15 minute walk away (or even more if you have a toddler that insists on walking).

The breezeways of the airport are open-air so you are able to see many of the planes on the tarmac.

HNL Breezeway

On my walk to the gate, I spotted some familiar faces, including:

Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Line, Japan Airlines, and Hawaiian Airlines…

Alaska, Delta, Japan, Hawaiian

…the Australian low-cost carrier Jetstar 787…

Jetstar

…an Asiana Airlines 777…

Asiana Airlines 777

…and an All Nippon Airways (ANA) Dreamliner.

ANA 787

DEPARTURE GATE AND BOARDING

After arriving at our gate, we waited about 30 minutes before boarding was called.

Southwest Gates

As with any Southwest flight, you are assigned a boarding group (A, B, or C) and position (1-60+) upon check in. Your unique group and position combination (for example: A35) will be displayed on your boarding pass and represents a reserved spot in the boarding group at the gate.

We were assigned B15 and B16 despite checking in at the check-in counter and not on the app.

The grey numbered posts in the gate area (shown below) indicate where to line up when boarding begins.

However, Southwest Airlines has “family boarding” after A’s are done boarding, but before B’s are called to board. We boarded with the families so we were able to board the plane a few spots earlier than expected.

Flying Southwest within Hawaii is just like flying Southwest anywhere else: either you like it (or at least tolerate) open boarding and all-economy class or you don’t.

Southwest Gates

After walking through the boarding door, we found ourselves in a fenced walkway that led to the Southwest Airline remote stands.

Southwest Walkway

Standing at the fenced door that led out to the plane was a SWA representative that scanned our boarding passes and confirmed we were on the correct flight.

Southwest Airlines

We proceeded through the marked walkway to the ramp stairs where all passengers boarded from the forward door.

Southwest Airlines
Our Happy Family

We sat just a few rows behind the wing on the left-hand side of the plane. I would estimate that the plane was about 75% full which was great for us because toddlers occupy all space …even if it does not belong to them.

Southwest Airlines

Given the flight was not completely full, the boarding process was fast and efficient. And within minutes, we were being pushed back and in the air.

These days, economy class passengers don’t get many frills on the major US carriers. Southwest doesn’t get major frills either — though on the plus side, I do find their crews to be a bit friendlier than other US carriers (on average).

In fact, during the announcements, it was notable when a flight attendant said, “We’re here for your safety and service”. I could be wrong but I don’t believe I’ve ever heard that last part — and service — on any airline in quite a while. It was a nice touch.

Raising an Aviation Geek 😉
Overlooking Oahu

SOUTHWEST AIRLINES SNACKS

Now, here’s the good part. Southwest offers better snacks on these routes than they do on their normal flights.

For example, their “snack pack” includes: wheat thins, spreadable cheese, fruit snacks, pretzels, and tic tacs for the first service and then a package with 2 Milano cookies for a second snack service before landing.

Southwest Snacks

Yes, two snacks in a 30 minute flight!! On some mainline carriers, I sometimes don’t receive one snack in 30 minutes.

They also have Ocean Spray Cran-Grape juice (sippy cup not included).

Southwest Airlines Juice

Admittedly, it’s not Singapore Airlines’ lobster thermidor and Krug, but you probably you didn’t have those expectations when you booked Southwest.

FLIGHT TIME

As I highlighted above, the flight was scheduled for 45 minutes but from takeoff to touchdown, it was only 33 minutes.

Southwest Airlines After Landing In Maui

THE VALUE

Inter-island flights are a FANTASTIC value! Again, prior to Southwest Airlines entering the Hawaiian market, Hawaiian Airlines charged $100+ one-way every day of the week and this price did not include bags ($15 for the first checked bag and $25 for the second).

Now, Southwest fares start at just $39 (or less during their sales) and cost less than 2,000 Rapid Rewards points each way.

With the companion pass, you have (at minimum) 100,000 points at your disposal. If my math serves me right…you have A LOT of flights!

FINAL STAMP

This is the best value in the sky!

While some will invariably look at flying Southwest with dread, it’s worth a reminder that even if you’re slightly uncomfortable, the juice is likely worth the squeeze.

Those who don’t mind flying Southwest domestically will be pleased that the experience flying within Hawaii isn’t much different.

For those who haven’t flown Southwest lately, I’d say this: having flown Alaska, American, Delta, and United in economy class over the past month, I don’t find flying Southwest to be substantially different (apart from the boarding process) in any negative way.

In fact, two free bags with Southwest, whether inter-island or on the mainland, sweetens the pot for me personally.

And for those who would never set foot on a Southwest plane, take comfort in competition. I don’t know for sure whether the prices can get much lower than they are, but if you’re looking to fly inter-island, Southwest is the best way to go!

Pro-Tip: With just 100 miles separating Oahu and Maui, this Pacific archipelago is a tempting destination for island hopping. And it can be quick and easy to explore multiple Hawaiian islands — but you have to be strategic. Furthermore, to really enjoy Hawaii you don’t want to constantly be on the move, so you need to stay on each island long enough to soak it all in before continuing onto the next.

Have you ever flown Southwest inter-island? What was your experience?

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