Southwest flights to Hawaii: 12 things travelers need to know

Dawn Gilbertson

Southwest Airlines has finally announced details on its Hawaii flights, with tickets on sale Monday and the first flight taking off March 17.

The initial flights will be between Oakland and Honolulu, with additional flights from Oakland and flights from San Jose added in April and May. Tickets are available on Southwest's website for the new routes.

Here are 12 things to know about the new Hawaii flights from the nation's largest domestic airline:

1. You can't necessarily get there from here. The airline is initially only offering nonstop flights from two California cities: Oakland and San Jose. It has previously said San Diego and Sacramento will also get flights. The airline is selling tickets to Hawaii from other cities, including Phoenix and Denver, with connections in Oakland. But if you want to fly Southwest to Hawaii from more far-flung cities, you'll probably have to buy separate tickets.

2. The $49 introductory one-way fares must be booked by Tuesday March 5 and will quickly sell out. They are only available from Oakland and San Jose to Hawaii.  Summer fares are significantly higher. You're best bet for a deal: fly soon and on a Tuesday or Wednesday.  Also check with Southwest competitors, including Hawaiian Airlines and Alaska Airlines, to see if they are matching Southwest's introductory fares.

More: Southwest Airlines $49 tickets to Hawaii are sold out; limited other cheap fares left

3. Yes, you'll spend 5 1/2 hours in a Boeing 737, without assigned seats or the option of upgrading to cushy premium seats. Southwest has one class: economy. Southwest is not the only airline using the workhorse jet instead of a wide-body plane. Alaska Airlines uses a Boeing 737 on its flights from the West Coast to Hawaii.

4. Want to boost your chances of a better seat? Southwest offers two options for priority boarding: EarlyBird Check-In, which is $25 per person on Hawaii flights, or Upgraded Boarding, which likely will be $50 each way at the gate, when available.

5. The Hawaii flights won't be the airline's longest flight. That title goes to flights between Newark, New Jersey, and Oakland.

6. You don't have to pack light or hold back on souvenir shopping. Southwest's trademark two-free-checked-bags policy will apply to its Hawaii flights. Don't stuff them silly though. Overweight bag fees of $75 each way kick in if a bag weighs more than 50 pounds. 

7. Surfboards don't fly free. Southwest charges $75 each way for surfboards. Boogie boards and knee boards can be checked as one of the two free checked bags.

8. Find a pet sitter. Southwest will not allow pets on flights to and from Hawaii, unless it's a service animal or an emotional support cat or dog. It has a similar policy on international flights.

9. Don't expect mahi mahi for your in-flight meal. Southwest doesn't serve meals and isn't changing that policy on flights to Hawaii. Hawaiian Airlines, a major competitor, offers complimentary meals and a free mai tai in economy class. The airline said it will offer a free snack bag, which is more than its standard in-flight snacks of pretzels and Wheat Thins. Bottom line: eat before your flight and pack some snacks.

10. Want to toast your trip to paradise? Southwest is adding tropical beverage options, including Minute Maid pineapple orange juice, Blue Chair Bay coconut spiced rum and Kona Longboard Island Lager to its in-flight drink menu on flights to and from Hawaii. The OJ is free, the alcoholic drinks aren't.

More: Southwest raises drink prices

11. In-flight Wi-Fi is $8, the standard price on all Southwest flights. You don't need to pay for Wi-Fi, though, if you want to stay in touch through instant messaging. 

12. Free Live TV and on-demand movies are available to watch on your phone, laptop, tablet or other personal devices. But make sure you bring an external charger or battery pack. Unlike many airlines, Southwest does not offer in-seat power outlets.

More: Southwest Airlines user's guide

More: No bag fees, no problem: Southwest collects $642 million in other fees in 2018

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Southwest flights to Hawaii: 12 things travelers need to know