The cost of Hawaii inter-island flights makes the news regularly. Hawaii residents and visitors alike complain that at times they are paying more for 100 mile flights than for flights of 2,500+ miles. Some residents have filed complaints and local governments have even gotten involved. The situation has, in reality put a crimp on how often it is feasible to visit other islands. So the question is, just how bad is it?
Mainland Flights to Hawaii – Cost per Mile.
We just published great mainland flights to Hawaii starting at only $378 RT. That specific low fare was for Oakland to Maui on Hawaiian Airlines, which at a distance of approximately 2,315 miles each way comes out to about $.08 per mile.
Inter-Island Flights Hawaii – Cost per Mile.
Using Honolulu to Maui as an example route, fares during most travel times typically range from $128 to $239 round trip. Based on a distance of 100 miles even, that comes out to between $0.64 and $1.19 per mile. That puts the highest of Hawaii inter-island fares near or at the top of cost per mile on flights within the US according to the Washington Post.
Cause: Lack of Competition.
In our deregulated airline environment, airlines are free to charge what the market will pay, with the distance flown having very little to do with the cost of flights. It is far more about competition, or the lack thereof.
The Hawaii inter-island flight market has had no significant competition for years, ever since Aloha Airlines went out of business in 2008. While other airlines have tried to enter the market, including Island Air, Go! and Mokulele, nothing has really stuck. We now have, other than fringe players, only one primary inter-island carrier, Hawaiian Airlines.
Contrast that with mainland to Hawaii flights. There, prices are kept in check through significant and improving competition from bellwethers Hawaiian Airlines and Alaska Airlines, in addition to the legacy companies, especially United Airlines.
What else has changed.
1. The days of island-hopping have largely come to an end. Visitors wanting to see more than one or two island may find it cost prohibitive to do so.
2. Direct flights to all islands have become standing operating procedure. With many flights to all the major islands from multiple airlines, it is generally more cost effective to fly to Hawaii directly from the mainland to your island of choice. New planes coming to Hawaiian Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and Southwest Airlines will also increase flights directly from the mainland to neighbor islands. Read First New Routes Announced on Hawaiian Airlines A321neo Fleet.
1. Change the time/day of flights. If you can fly either very early in the morning or late at night, the costs are generally less. Sometimes the same is true of mid-week vs. weekend travel.
2. One viable alternative that we like ourselves, is the four island NCL Pride of America cruise which has a list of advantages including eliminating the need for inter-island flights.
2. Plan your Hawaii vacation during off peak travel periods whenever possible. That trick will reduce all of your Hawaii travel costs including flights to Hawaii, inter-island flights, accommodations, and activities. Read the Cheapest Time to Fly to Hawaii for more information.