Leaked Details of New Southwest Airlines Snack Service for Hawaii Flights

After many years of speculation, sixteen months ago Southwest finally announced they would fly to Hawaii. How long have we been waiting? In December 2010 they advertised for an ETOPS manager suggesting they were planning long overwater flights.

They have yet to begin selling tickets but details of their plans have been trickling out ever since. Last year they confirmed several Hawaii routes: Oakland, San Diego, San Jose, and Sacramento will see Hawaii service and they’ll fly to Honolulu, Maui, Kauai, and Kona.

And we know they think their credit card will get a whole lot more attractive when people can spend their points to fly to Hawaii. Nearly 14% of the airline’s seats are taken up by passengers redeeming Rapid Rewards tickets.

Southwest Airlines no longer serves peanuts but I do like getting Wheat Thins with drink service, pretzels not as much.

The airline had said that even though they’re introducing Hawaii flying, the service elements would remain the same. Their galleys aren’t equipped with ovens so hot meals are out of the question without a major retrofit of aircraft, and while they sell cocktails on board they don’t offer food for sale.

Southwest has flown cross country flights, and the length of West Coast – Hawaii is similar. They didn’t see the need to change up service for Baltimore – Los Angeles, Oakland – Honolulu flight is only 80 miles farther.

Still it turns out that Southwest will bolster their complimentary snack service a bit, offering:

  • “a snack bag filled with Wheat Thins, pretzels, cheese spread, fruit snacks and … Tic Tacs.”

  • an hour prior to arrival Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies

  • new Hawaii-inspired drinks on board: Minute Maid pineapple orange juice, Blue Chair Bay coconut spiced rum, and Kona Longboard Island Lager.

According to an internal Southwest Airlines memo they’re doing this because “customers will want to be immersed in the Hawaiian culture as soon as they board our aircraft.”

It’s not Zoës Kitchen and you’re definitely going to want to eat before your Southwest flight to Hawaii or bring something on board with you. But it’s nice to see them differentiating their soon-to-launch service to the Islands.

United Airlines used to offer glamorous service to Hawaii and indeed until just a few years ago most flights featured the “Halfway to Hawaii game” where you could win a bottle of champagne.

Passengers would be invited to guess the exact time they’d be halfway across the ocean to Hawaii. Some would just take a close enough guess by listening to the pilot’s announced flight time, cutting it in half, and adding that to the departure time.

However others took it as a more complex math problem factoring information from the captain such as the altitude they’d be flying; flight time; takeoff time; total trip distance; air speed; and headwinds. There was even an app for calculating this. At one point they would give away a Fodor’s travel guide. I’m not aware of the game being played any longer.

United went looking for a sponsor to pay them to do this during the Smisek era effort to cut $2 billion in costs that was given the Newspeak name ‘Project Quality.’

That’s too bad. Passengers are usually in a festive mood as they head out to Hawaii. There’s something special about these flights. And it’s nice when airlines recognize that, even in a modest way.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. According to recent news, WN is also exploring having Hawaii-bound flights from LAS. This is good business sense, as HA knows. For many Hawaiians, Las Vegas is the “ninth island”, as so many have moved there.

  2. As you say, 14% of WN fares are on points. And I have watched this for years; it goes up about 1% annually. I imagine flights to Hawaii will be at that level or higher.

    Will be interesting to see how many CP tickets get booked to Hawaii. I have to think that every wedding blogger on the face of the earth will be pushing this. “BOGO to Hawaii. Click here!”

    Gonna be a lot of non-cash tickets heading there. Wonder how the cash flow is going to look.

  3. Southwest is wonderful. I have flown them 50+ times and never had an issue. The leg room is perfect for a tall person and they don’t nickel and dime you like all other airlines. No bag fees. No seat fees, no extra legroom fees. I can’t wait for hawaii trips to begin! Love love love southwest!!

  4. I used to solely fly United and was 1K for many years, but now it’s only SW to where they fly. Best way to board a flight! I wish they did more Intl, so that I can always fly them. Other non-SW people dont understand and likely will never unless they try. Coming back from a flight in Dec, the flight was cancelled due to normal issues and SW emailed after the fact and we got $400 credit each (one of us was on CP) without even asking – amazing!

  5. @Madison

    It’s a bit misleading to claim southwest lacks seat fees because they don’t do assigned seating. If you want halfway decent seats you need to be in the A boarding group and to guarantee such grouping southwest sells early bird check in for this very reason.

  6. @Madison

    It’s a bit misleading to claim southwest lacks seat fees because they don’t do assigned seating. If you want halfway decent seats you need to be in the A boarding group and to guarantee such grouping southwest sells early bird check in for this very reason.

  7. @bob

    No change fees. Simple frequent flyer program. Easy as that. I work in power/energy sector where schedules change all the time and exclusively fly SW because of no fees. It adds up.

    I redeem my points for connecting to int’l gateways for my other airline award travel. Also for weekend getaways.

  8. It wold be nice if these airlines started serving well done Steak or seafood. Imagine getting steak and lobster on a flight and how nice that would be! 🙂

  9. @golfingboy

    Just to clarify / EarlyBird does NOT guarantee A boarding – it’s a hassle free check in process

  10. You say “Passengers are usually in a festive mood as they head out to Hawaii. There’s something special about these flights. And it’s nice when airlines recognize that, even in a modest way.”

    You are absolutely correct. Hawaiian Airlines completely gets it, and provides that festive mood you speak of. And that’s one of the many reasons why it stole so much traffic from the Uniteds and Americans, most of it repeat. Service is the sum of the little things, whose removal was the “Project Quality” and similar programs at UA and AA. If all people cared about was “transportation” at the cheapest price, there would be no First Class and we would all be driving Chevrolet Sparks.

    Of course Southwest offers one of the little things that passengers care probably most, being free of the hassle of extra fees, especially the baggage fees who so dis-proportionally hit families and vacationers. And Southwest comes with the hordes of loyal travelers that this lack of fees has earned them.

  11. @DNN I’m willing to bet that a large enough number of people would pay restaurant prices to eat well done steak and lobster on a flight. Airlines who sell hot food sell more of it than cold one.

  12. We’re still a long long way from the service on Braniff’s 707s where a surfboard topped trolley would service first class passengers with all kinds of tropical drinks and hawaiian appetizers served by mumu clad flight attendants.

  13. Writing as a retired pilot that worked for SWA, I’m aware that there are many benefits to be had when purchasing a ticket or using miles on WN. I’m also very aware there are many downsides when traveling on a full flight (of which almost 90% are and I imagine it to be even more so to HNL) especially on flights of over two (2) hours duration and six (6) plus hours … well the term “brutal” comes to mind.
    During my career at SWA many flights were of the “see an airport and land” duration. Nobody does it better! Although the original “Non Smoking” airline, Muse Air, did it with a helping of class and some appetizing snack baskets.

  14. @Bob

    Best rewards program in the business by far, excellent customer service, free bags (still upset that’s a “perk”), last day changes without penalty. One day my wife and I volunteered to sing a Christmas song and they gave us free tickets. Another time on customer appreciation day they gave out free cookies. COOKIES, man. There’s so much to love. They’re easily my favorite domestic carrier. From where I sit, the only disadvantage of flying them domestically (and it’s admittedly major) are the abundant and often absurd connections.

  15. I won the “halfway to…” challenge once, and the pilot made us answer in zulu time. It was a history of United Airlines coffee table book, which is very nice and I have to this day.

  16. If Southwest does not fly to a destination, then I won’t fly there on any other airline. I am glad that those who complain about Southwest don’t fly Southwest – it is a win for those who do. It is obvious that these people have “special” needs that have nothing to do with flying to a destination.

  17. As far as I know Southwest was the ONLY US airline that closed the 2001 fiscal year with a profit. By November 2001 its share value was back to the July 2001. If *this* doesn’t reflect the trust and loyalty of its customers and shareholders, nothing will do.
    PS-Yes, the unassigned seat sucks, but everything else works fine.

  18. Cannot wait to fly in June for our 3rd trip back to Oahu! We LOVE Southwest! Never had bad experience in all the 19 years we’ve flown with them. The flight crew always does their very best to make your trip a good one! That inagural flight to Honolulu looked really cool! And the fact that they are serving Kona Longboard is even better! As for no assigned seats…no biggie, just do the early bird check in or if your spouse or travel companion is an A-lister prefered member have them easily save you a seat if you get stuck with C Boarding Pass. Works for us every single time. Even with our family of 5 we’ve never had an issue.

    Aloha SWA!! <3

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