Southwest Airlines

Although Southwest celebrated its initial trip to Hawaii on Sunday, the Pacific island newcomer also celebrated its first passenger flight return from Honolulu, Hawaii, to Oakland, California, on Monday. The initial Southwest return flight was WN6569.

Even though it didn’t have quite the same pomp and ceremony as the trip from Oakland to Honolulu (i.e. no hula dancers on board), the “Luv” carrier was still in celebratory mood. And there was cause to rejoice with typical Southwest advantages like two free checked bags and a pleasant crew, as well as acceptable Wi-Fi speeds across the ocean and Hawaiian-themed drink options, as well as low Southwest flights to and from Hawaii.

When Southwest originally announced the date of its inaugural trip to Hawaii, prices were just $49 one way. Those tickets, as expected, sold quickly. The initial flight off of the island wasn’t nearly as cheap, but it was still a good deal. We used The Platinum Card® from American Express to pay $79 for a one-way flight from Honolulu (HNL) to Oakland (OAK) in order to take advantage of the card’s 5x bonus category on airfare purchased directly through the airline or through Amex Travel (on up to $500,000 in these purchases per calendar year). Furthermore, because this was a paid fare, I was able to receive Rapid Rewards points for the trip, but I only got 330 in total. Even if the points earned were tiny, it didn’t really matter because the ticket was so inexpensive.

It was the first day of operation for the Southwest check-in and ticketing section at HNL, and the freshly installed counters were adorned with balloons to commemorate the event.

Computers at the brand-new bag drop remained hidden, while self-service kiosks awaited their initial activation.

The Southwest concourse is in Terminal 2, and it was a long but reasonable trek through the airport following security.

Southwest’s concourse at HNL is brand new, having been built from the ground up beginning in October 2018. The area was initially intended for Island Air interisland flights, but when the airline went bankrupt in 2017, the empty lot presented a chance for Southwest to develop gates to its own specifications.

At HNL, Southwest has four gates: G7, G8, G9, and G10. There was also ample of room for the pylons, which are an essential feature of Southwest’s trademark boarding technique. Because the carrier provides open seating, all seats are first come, first served, and passengers board by group letter and number dependent on how early they check in. Southwest now has Early Bird check-in for $15 to $25, which instantly checks customers in and ensures a strong boarding position. Business Select ensures one of the first 15 boarding slots (A1 through A15) for $30, $40, or $50 every trip.

The entire gate area felt new and cozy, especially in comparison to the remainder of HNL’s T2, which was either under construction or outdated.

There was plenty of seating, as well as electricity and USB ports throughout. I was able to charge both my laptop and phone without incident, which was especially crucial given that Southwest’s 737-800 flights lack passenger plugs.

There was also a newly opened Starbucks and a bar promoting Hawaii’s Kona Brewing Co. that has yet to open.

To commemorate the airline’s inaugural passenger flight out of Honolulu, there were festive accents throughout the gate area. G7’s departure gate was embellished with a balloon arch.

The gate also included enormous windows that looked out over planes parked on the tarmac, which was sure to please AvGeeks traveling through. Passengers were also able to observe takeoffs from the runway behind the tarmac. I noticed Southwest’s 738 parked from Sunday’s maiden trip — the same 6-year-old jet that flew the carrier’s verification flights to Honolulu with the FAA would also be transporting us back to the mainland. Flight WN808, Southwest’s second-ever passenger aircraft from OAK to HNL, touched down at 11:10 a.m.

The team explained that the delay was due to opening day issues, but otherwise the operation proceeded flawlessly. Passengers on this historic flight were handed fresh departure leis and an inaugural certificate as they boarded.

Southwest’s HNL gates all use a ramp-style boarding system, so passengers went out onto the runway and up the ramp to the plane. Normally, this would be considered a disadvantage, but in Honolulu, it was a pleasurable experience due to the beautiful views of Diamond Head and the surrounding hills.

The aircraft was fully booked, with all 175 seats taken. I failed to check in for my return trip after the maiden flight to Hawaii on Sunday, so I was in the dreaded “C” boarding group, which normally equates to a middle seat in the back of the plane. But, by some miracle, I was able to secure an aisle seat in the fourth row with overhead bin room for my rollaboard luggage. On this crowded flight, this was a wonderful miracle!

Southwest’s most current interior makeover included blue leather chairs… and not much else.

Each seat has a 32-inch pitch and a 17-inch width. The seat was comfortable enough for my four-and-a-half-hour journey.

The staff said that the 20-minute delay was due to some last-minute suitcase relocation. However, the late pushback had no effect on the flight’s arrival time.

Personal devices might access in-flight entertainment via Southwest’s in-flight Wi-Fi. The Wi-Fi was $8 per device, a significant benefit on Hawaii service because competitor carriers like as Alaska and Hawaiian do not provide it until the plane is over the Pacific Ocean.

If passengers downloaded the Southwest app on their devices before takeoff, they could watch live TV, listen to music, and watch movies for free. Flyers might pay for Wi-Fi after takeoff and use it to download the software. After departure, I downloaded the app via the onboard Wi-Fi, and download rates were surprisingly rapid. The app was up and running in less than a minute. However, the connection was not powerful enough for me to reliably transmit instant chats and emails.

The Wi-Fi worked nicely for live TV, with only a few small buffering difficulties. CBS, TBS, NBC, Fox, HGTV, USA, FX, Discovery, Bravo, ESPN, NFL, Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, and Disney were among the 16 networks accessible.

There was also a good range of films. I saw “The Wife” and then finally saw “Crazy Rich Asians.” I didn’t have a phone stand, and there was no clear way to put it up on the seatback or tray table, so I ended up holding it most of the time, which was annoying but not disastrous. However, I believe it is problematic that Southwest expects customers to bring their own devices for streaming while failing to offer electricity at each seat so that these gadgets can stay charged. For example, I wanted to preserve my computer power since I had work to complete once I arrived in Oakland, so I had to occupy myself throughout the journey with my phone and its rather small screen.

Southwest provided complimentary soda, juice, and coffee. Alcoholic beverages typically cost roughly $7. I wanted to try one of the Hawaiian beverages currently available on the airline’s island-bound flights, so I chose the Kona Brewing Co. Longboard Island Lager, a pleasant, summery beer.

Southwest has also introduced a new complementary snack box on its Hawaii flights, which includes crackers, pretzels, cheese spread, and fruit snacks. Before arrival, flight attendants gave out Milano cookies as well as extra coffee and water.

On this unique trip, the cabin crew was cheerful and friendly. One flight attendant even recognized me from the day before’s maiden trip in and inquired how I was doing. A lovely and welcoming crew.

Southwest provided a nice journey from Honolulu to the mainland. Although I had minor complaints, such as portable IFE and being assigned to the worst boarding group when I failed to check in on time, the advantages far surpassed these little drawbacks. And having Wi-Fi on a flight to Hawaii truly pushed this service over the top. Because I just acquired the Southwest companion pass as part of a credit card sign-up bonus, I’m going to keep a watch on Southwest’s website to make another cheap vacation to Hawaii shortly.

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