The pros and cons of flying Southwest to Hawaii

Southwest Airlines launched service to the Hawaiian islands of Oahu and Maui in April and celebrated with $88 fares from Phoenix.

faab2f9b-ee51-4cf6-b3d6-e78b85e722b8That was great news for travelers and for Hawaiian businesses who are already benefiting from the influx of Arizonans headed their way. The locals call it the “Southwest-effect” because the low-cost airline entering a new market usually means all airlines have to lower their rates.

I was one of the lucky ones who took advantage of the $88 fare and spent a week on Oahu and Maui in April. I had never flown Southwest before so I was a little worried about how it would go, but overall I thought it was a positive experience. And honestly, for $88, you feel like you can’t complain about much!

Related: Where to eat and drink on Maui

THE PROS:

-33 inches of lean on the seat chairs makes them roomier than some airline competitors

-Free on-board TV and movies with the Southwest and $8 wifi, half of what American charges

-Two free checked bags per passenger

-The chance of a free seat next to you with Southwest’s open seating policy

-No fee ticket change policy

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THE CONS:

-No in-flight meals. Southwest offers a snack bag consisting of crackers, cheese and fruit snacks (not gluten free)

-A layover in Oakland, CA (Southwest hub) that eats up most of your travel day

-Open seat policy, so if you check-in late, you end up with a middle seat in the back of the plane

Related: 5 free things to do in Honolulu

Since Southwest doesn’t assign seats and boards based on check-in time, it’s important to make sure you check in right at the 24 hour hour mark before your flight. Also keep in mind the airline lets families board early so they can sit together, which can ruin your chance of getting a row up front.

All in all, I would do it again in a heartbeat. Getting to see two Hawaiian islands for under $250 round trip is a steal. And while the inaugural sale may have passed, Southwest plans to add inter-island flights and flights from San Jose in June, so keep your eyes open for more sales!

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