US-Hawaii air market: Southwest Airlines raises competitive pressure

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Even as Southwest Airlines’ competitors on its new routes to Hawaii have had the benefit of a reprieve from that airline’s expansion due to the continued grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX, the mega LCC’s market entry has created formidable pricing pressure. 

Those headwinds are strengthening in the coming months once Southwest resumes expansion to Hawaii, starting in late 2019 and continuing into early 2020.

Additional routes planned by Southwest will continue to inflate competitive capacity between California and Hawaii. In addition to adding new inter-island flights that begin in late 2019 and continue into 2020, Southwest is also adding flights from Sacramento to Honolulu, Oakland to Kona and Lihue, and San Jose to Kona and Lihue.

Alaska Air Group and Hawaiian continue to bear the brunt of Southwest’s competitive incursion, and either of those airlines may in fact retrench, or may suffer through increasingly tough conditions until some rationalisation returns to the market.

For now, it seems as if Hawaiian and Alaska are prepared to stick it out, even as a recovery in pricing seems far off on the horizon.

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