LIHUE — Passengers cheered as the first Southwest Airlines flight out of Lihue landed in Honolulu on Sunday morning, marking the beginning of the carrier’s flights to and from Kauai.
The long-awaited flight 1083 wasn’t full, which provided extra space for passengers in the already roomy cabin. Festivity was in the air during the 25-minute flight.
All 70 passengers on the inaugural Lihue flight received commemorative certificates.
Celebrating in the last seat of the plane were Robert Carner and Tracy Hendrix, who specifically chose flight 1083 because it was an inaugural Southwest inter-island flight.
“This is my fourth Hawaii destination. I’ve been on all the inaugural flights,” Carner said. “I saw what a party it was and I just had to be part of it all.”
Both Carner and Hendrix are from Orlando, Fla. They flew from Orlando to Oakland and then to Honolulu before flying to Kauai.
“She’s a trooper,” Carner said. “First time flying ever.”
Initially, Southwest had the inaugural flights from Kauai and Hawaii Island scheduled for the same day, starting in January. Southwest moved up the inter-island flights from Kauai due to demand.
Many believe increased competition for Hawaiian Airlines will lead to lower interisland fares.
Carner said he was thrilled when he heard about that because he wanted to be able to be on both flights. He’s already booked his January ticket for the inaugural trip from Hilo.
Taking advantage of the low introductory fares and free-baggage policy at Southwest were Kauai residents Keron Plenty and Ivyr Lluellen. They were headed to Oahu for a couple rounds of golf and dinner before returning home.
“It’s a new flight and the prices are really reasonable right now,” Lluellen said.
Flights from Oahu to Hilo start Jan. 21, as does an introduction of nonstop flights from the Mainland to Lihue. Adam Decaire, Southwest vice president of network marketing, said the schedule will “ramp up” in March.
It’s part of a strategy to start with a few introductory flights and then to increase flights throughout the first quarter.
Sitting on the inaugural flight Sunday, Decaire said he’s still amazed at the response from both mainlanders and locals.
“Response has been incredible, wildly beating our expectations,” Decaire said. “It’s really made us feel part of the family real quick.”
Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or firstname.lastname@example.org.