FlightAware Discussions

Southwest Airlines and Hawaii

I know this has been mentioned, but I am wondering what are the chances Southwest operating new routes to Honolulu:

San Diego->Honolulu- B738
Orange John Wayne->Honolulu- B738
Burbank->Honolulu- B738
Sacramento->Honolulu-B738 (route starting January 19, 2020)

SWA might pick up the SAN-HNL, SNA-HNL, BUR-HNL and possibly RNO-HNL, but the B38M issues seriously hit their chances hard. Those routes were formerly run by ATA (which SWA ate) or AAS, which doesn’t have a chance of restarting. in AAS’ case, those routes started via LAS, using a B738 to SNA or BUR before heading across the pond. Those are possible with a B738, but they may not have the room for them to be used unless they pull back some B737s or B733s out of retirement to backfill the routes they would be pulled from.

SWA has never had service at FAT, and chances are never will, as UAL and AAY have huge strangleholds on that airport.

For RNO, I want to say that it was part of their plans, but without FAT being involved. It’s only an extra 80nm from SMF, so that wouldn’t be much of an issue for a B38M, but not sure as far as a B738 goes. Again, it comes down to capacity for the route as well as availability of the B738 from the other routes they have it on.


While dominated by UAL and AAY,it does not mean SWA is never going to start up shop, in fact, it is perfectly the right reason to capitalize at FAT . So lets think out the box:

  1. Chicago Midway->Fresno->Honolulu
  2. Wisconsin->Fresno->Honolulu
  3. Boise->Fresno->Honolulu
  4. Indianapolis->Fresno->Honolulu
  5. Des Moines->Fresno->Honolulu
  6. Delaware/Newcastle->Fresno->Honolulu
  7. Long Island MacArthur->Fresno->Honolulu
  8. Drum roll…can you think of any New England airport that could benefit from a Hawaii service?

What market would there be for FAT if SWA serves everywhere around there?

They are 2 hours from the Bay where they serve all 3 airports. They are 2.5 hours from SMF. They are 3 hours from RNO. They are 2.5 hours from BUR. There is no real reason for them to set up shop there, as there isn’t the capacity to support anything from those routes, let alone from their OAK base.

As far as those routes go, there really isn’t anything from one side to the other to support it. AAY is based now at LAS, and when I lived there, they started in Fresno. I personally know Mitch Allee, who started the airline back in the late 1990s They did everything out of FAT, which is why they still serve there. UAL has a stranglehold on FAT mainly through SKW operating for them. NKS already serves there in some major capacity, and the VOI and AEX are the only international carriers with any service there. There just isn’t the need for it.

SWA normally AVOIDS airports that has that much of a hold on it. They avoided anything in MSP until NWA and MEP went under. They saw that FFT and UAL were going downhill before they went back to DEN. COA’s merger with UAL awarded them slots at LGA, EWR, DCA, and IAD, otherwise they avoided those airports at all costs, just to keep costs down. The merger with TRS awarded them ATL, but note how they still refuse to fly to DFW, MIA, ORD, or JFK. They only went to LAX because they were promised the closest gates to the runway to preserve their 20-minute turnaround time.

So it comes down to:

  1. Turnaround. If they can support the 20-minute turnaround time from parking at the gate to pushing from the gate,
  2. Capacity. If there is enough capacity to support the route, and
  3. Viability. If the service is lucrative enough to support the ROI from starting it,

Then SWA would consider it. Right now, they’d only meet 1 of those 3. All of the routes you mentioned with the exception of #6 (SWA doesn’t fly to anywhere in Delaware; closest is BWI) have nonstop flights to LAS or OAK, which are two of the initial points for HNL service (SMF being a third). Also, Since SWA’s routes are point to point, there would have to be viability of service TO FAT, not just through it. There isn’t the viability or capacity to support that.

As for #8, it’s really negligible, because the Hawaii service would be from SFO, OAK, LAS, LAX, RNO, or SMF. The passenger would need to get to one of those airports first, which if you look at their schedules, you’ll notice that there are very few airports that SWA services that does NOT have a nonstop flight to LAS. Replace Fresno with Las Vegas, and each one of those you’ve mentioned are viable routes.

You are right, SWA have a strong presence in Las Vegas, however, I am confident that SWA can stand on her own two feet at LAS and not be used as a transit hub.

It is not about whether Fresno is closer to Oakland, or, Fresno is closer to Burbank. It is whether Fresno is viable for SWA and the paying passengers. I believe Fresno is a suitable base because what you have listed:

  1. It does not make sense for passengers to drive all the way to Oakland or San Francisco based on time factor ,added gas and accommodation expenses. 3 hours drive is still added time. Why drive to SFO or OAK? Just because you can? That just doesn’t make financial sense if you are living in Fresno.

  2. The catchment area for Fresno is absolutely massive. Merced to Bakersfield and in everywhere between. In business, Farmer Joe and his family are still paying customers, SWA low cost model will appeal those who never have to chance to fly legacy carriers and that is where SWA ought to capitalize on.

3)Las Vegas have a very small catchment area, (yes, massive city but small catchment area). Once again, it does not make sense for someone to drive from St George, Utah to LAS just to go to Hawaii. Unlike LAS, FAT can be purely used as a transit stop to Honolulu.

  1. SWA is heavily competing with over 10 domestic airlines flying West Coast. SWA is also competing with Hawaiian on an A330 capacity. In business sense why compete with Delta who have to capacity to link Las Vegas->Portland->Honolulu? or United Las Vegas->Los Angeles->Honolulu? There are simply too many lions who wants a lion share at LAS.

5)The stronghold of legacy carriers are not set in stone, SWA needing a 20 minutes turnaround is perfectly suited to FAT. The taxiway alignments to gates has never been a problem.

  1. Fresno can be be a successful transit hub unlike LAS because Fresno is a small city with large catchment area, unlike LAS, Fresno do not have a dominating tourist industry. Fresno must be prepared to capitalize on auxiliary routes namely Burbank, Long Beach, Ontario, Orange and San Diego. I don’t like the idea of SWA operating out of LAX, they should cease LAX completely and focus at Long Beach.

7)My message is if the price is right, never underestimate the power of corridor customers. I agree with you- Fresno is within 2-3 hours within SFO and LAX, but at the end of the day, I believe alot can take place within these corridors. Look at Emirates, Etihad and Qatar- those corridors are just the same and secondly, point in case with Qatar and Singapore Airlines operating flights to the Australian capital Canberra. Canberra is a super small city (next to giant Sydney) but those airline relied on catchment areas passengers. SWA low cost model and catchment area model can make Fresno a workable hub, and I don’t see why secondary to another secondary hub would not work considering there’s a dearth in West Coast California to Montana, North/South Dakota and Wyoming routes.