The best airlines for flights to Hawaii may be changing. Of course it will in large part still depend on where you are traveling from. The two primary choices for cheap flights to Hawaii from west coast cities have been and remain Hawaiian Airlines and Alaska Airlines. Both are highly regarded carriers that have a wide range of offerings. Their prices on competitive routes are usually but not always similar. There are other choices as well, including Virgin America, owned by Alaska Airlines, which flies to Maui and Oahu from the Bay Area and Los Angeles.
The situation is becoming fluid and fast changing. First, we have just had the first official announcement regarding upcoming Southwest Airlines Hawaii flights. Next, United Airlines just made a significant about face, reasserting their dominance in Hawaii. With that, United is again to be the largest carrier to the islands from the US Mainland. Delta Airlines is also serious about Hawaii, and access via their Pacific Northwest base among others.
A changing environment portends new competition and that translates to upcoming Hawaii deals we are all looking forward to.
United Rejoins Hawaii Playing Field
United Airlines Hawaii flights from Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles and San Francisco will increase significantly later this year. That in addition to their existing daily nonstop flights to Honolulu including Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, New York/Newark, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Guam and Tokyo.
The new flights which start this December include daily Denver to Kona, Lihue and Maui services (previously seasonal). Maui to Chicago flights are increasing to five per week also starting in December. United will also add flights between LAX and Hilo, Kona, Maui and Lihue from December. Service frequencies are Hilo daily, Kona and Lihue twice daily, and Maui three times daily.
The company will increase San Francisco flights to Hawaii to five times daily to Maui, three times daily to Kona and two times daily to Lihue. All changes represent permanent year round additions.
Best Airlines for Flights to Hawaii
Hawaiian Airlines flies to Honolulu, Hawaii (Big Island), Kauai, and Maui from Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York, Oakland, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose and Seattle. They also offer inter-island service between all islands, including Lanai and Molokai.
Hawaiian flies wide-body A330 as well as soon to be retired B767 aircraft to Hawaii. Starting in January 2018, they will begin adding a new fleet of 18 Airbus A321neo aircraft for west coast travel. We expect to see many more new Hawaiian Airlines flights announced in coming weeks.
They were until recently the only US airline to offer free meals in coach (see Delta changes below). The company is ranked highly among US competitors and is the champion of on-time awards. First-class now offers lie-flat seating on many flights (not A321neo) that are available for purchase, upgrade or by bidding. Inter-island service uses B717 aircraft.
Alaska Airlines flies to Honolulu, Hawaii (Big Island), Kauai, and Maui directly from Anchorage, Bellingham (limited service), Oakland, Portland, Sacramento, San Diego, San Jose, and Seattle. They also offer connecting flights to Hawaii from across the US.
Alaska flies B737-800 aircraft to Hawaii. The company is regularly ranked among the best US airlines and also has a reputation of on-time service for which it regularly receives awards. They are adding a fleet of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft starting in 2018.
Virgin America flies from San Francisco and Los Angeles to Honolulu and Maui. They also offer connecting flights to Hawaii from other US cities. The company was acquired by Alaska Airlines in 2016. They will remain a separate brand through at least 2018 if not longer.
Virgin flies A320 aircraft to Hawaii. The company is consistently among the best rated of all US airlines.
United Airlines flies to Hawaii (all islands) from Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, New York/Newark, San Francisco, Washington D.C., Guam and Tokyo. Look for more discounted pricing based on new UAL Hawaii flights and additional competition.
United utilizes a range of aircraft to Hawaii.
Update: American Airlines, and Delta Airlines have a flights to and from Hawaii from most areas of the U.S. There can be and often is discounting on these companies as well, which has been the case recently from Seattle, Portland, Sacramento and San Diego. Outside of those cities, , however, their Hawaii deals are not as frequent as the airlines above which specialize in flights to Hawaii.
Delta will begin flying from Seattle to Lihue starting December 2017. With that introduction, and likely other Hawaii flights to be added on top of that, we expect more competition on Hawaii flights from Seattle and Portland. Also note that Delta has begun reintroducing meals on longer distance flights to Hawaii. We do expect that trend to increase across airlines and on more flights.
Note: Photo above is of Southwest Airlines plane. Southwest Airlines Hawaii flights will begin in the near future.