United believes that Southwest cannot match the quality of United’s service to Hawaii. But that’s not really the point.
United CEO Oscar Munoz just returned from a multi-stop Asia Pacific trip that included Seoul, Tokyo, and Hawaii (including Honolulu and select out-stations). Writing to all employees about his trip, Munoz downplayed Southwest without ever mentioning it by name:
If you thought that recent media fanfare over new low-cost carriers trying to expand in the market might have flagged their spirits, let me be the one to tell you firsthand: our Hawaii employees have never been more confident in our ability to outcompete any new kids on the block. United continues to offer the most flights, most seats and most capacity of any carrier between the mainland and the islands.
Beyond that, from our onboard meals, to premium cabin offerings and extra legroom options, to inflight entertainment – none of our competitors, including low-cost carriers, can match the quality of United’s overall service to Hawaii.
On the one hand, all of this can be dismissed as simply the sort of spin that a CEO must say to his frontline employees (or publicly). I’m not sure anyone is going to choose United over Southwest due to onboard meals, especially when United does not provide any complimentary meals on the 10-hour flight from Washington Dulles to Honolulu or the 11-hour flight from Newark to Honolulu (United is trialing free sandwiches from Chicago and Houston).
On the other hand, United simply serves a far larger market than Southwest. Southwest does not even offer redeye flights, and therefore is targeting point-to-point (direct) traffic from key West Coast cities to the Hawaiian islands. United caters to passengers across the United States and Canada and even beyond. In that sense, there is no comparison between the two.
Fly Southwest and you’ll get free checked bags and a little snack box, but I don’t think that’s the point. In the case of leisure-markets like Hawaii, I think most consumers will choose the airline that offers the best connections at the best price. United tends do well in this category from cities across the nation. Thus, its primary “threat” remains Delta and American, not Southwest (or even Hawaiian).
> Read More: United’s Diametrically Different Hawaii Strategy Than Southwest
> Read More: United CEO Bemoans Honolulu Airport
images: Southwest Airlines