Leeward Oahu

Alaska, Allegiant and Southwest Race To Hawaii

There’s a three way battle for Hawaii air dominance and not one of the players is based here. Apparently there is gold in our hills, or at least these significant players think so. And let’s face it, Hawaii’s skies need some new blood. The currently stagnant, constrained marketplace has resulted in ridiculously high and unsustainable mainland and inter-island airfares, some of the highest I can ever remember seeing.

Three Airlines to the rescue

I’ve written repeatedly about each of these carriers’ plans to conquer Hawaii’s skies.  Here’s where things stand as of today:

Alaska Airlines: The first of the three to actually set foot (or wheel) on the ground.

For a reasonably small airline, albeit it three times larger than Hawaiian, Alaska has made a big splash using small (737) planes. Alaska flies to the four major islands directly from the U.S. Mainland. Their latest additions are service to Kauai from Oakland and San Jose, both set to debut next month. In total their offerings include:

  • Anchorage to Maui, Oahu
  • Bellingham to Honolulu
  • Seattle – Big Island, Kauai, Maui, Oahu
  • Portland – Big Island, Maui, Oahu,
  • Oakland – Big Island, Kauai, Maui
  • Sacramento – Maui
  • San Diego – Maui
  • San Jose – Big Island, Kauai, Maui

What’s next for Alaska? As I’ve said before, Alaska could soon decide to enter the tricky inter-island market. Why? In part as a preemptive strike which could dissuade Southwest partially or entirely from coming to Hawaii. Alaska has recently reported excellent profits, and has removed the Horizon name from its short-haul services, both of which speak positively to this theory. In addition, I expect Hawaii will soon see more direct flights from Alaska, including other cities on the West Coast, including Oregon, Central and Southern California.

Allegiant Airlines: They’ve had more than their share of Hawaii headaches before ever taking off.

The airline acquired six 757’s with the intended purpose of flying to Hawaii, which I’d announced back in February 2009. One year later, those precise plans and equipment acquisition were confirmed by Allegiant, which intended to begin service late in 2010. After repeated delays, however, they reported last November, that attaining the ETOPS certification and flag-carrier status required for trans-Pacific flights would not happen until 2012. In the interim, Allegiant now plans to use these aircraft now parked in Arizona, domestically, starting in July.

Will Allegiant ever come to Hawaii?  At this point, I’m not completely assured. Allegiant enjoys a unique packaging model of selling airfare together with more profitable hotel and activity purchases which differentiates them from any competitor. Their longer range 757 aircraft also afford the potential benefit of moving non-stop targets approximately 1,000 miles further inland from the West Coast.  Southwest, however, is a looming and ominous competitor with whom I doubt Allegiant will want an Hawaii duel. Allegiant may well still arrive in Hawaii, but if Southwest gets here first, their enthusiasm could be dampened.

Southwest Airlines: Without a doubt, headed straight for Hawaii.

I broke that news last October, prior to Southwest’s own announcement. They will take delivery of new Hawaii-enabled planes starting early in 2012. Southwest learned well from Allegiant’s ETOPS problems and jumped directly into resolving them. It appears that Southwest will have certification and be positioned to fly to Hawaii by Spring, 2012, just over one year from now. In addition, barring a jump from Alaska, I expect Southwest to enter Hawaii’s inter-island market as well.


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13 thoughts on “Alaska, Allegiant and Southwest Race To Hawaii”

  1. Have we heard anything new? I hope that we can get some more competition in the sky because it is ridiculous what they want to charge us to get off the rock for anything.

  2. Jeff…Regarding Alaska Air, I wish they would come to southern California, but I cannot see where. Their 737-800 ETOPS can’t make it off the short runway at John Wayne, they have no slots at LGB which has allocated all 41, LAX doesn’t fit with their strategy of secondary airports i.e. SJC and OAK instead of SFO, and Ontario has seen plummeting passenger demand. So where do you think they would set up shop in southern California?

    1. Hi George,

      It appears that Alaska can fly to Hawaii from John Wayne using their 737-800’s. I looked at Boeing’s runway requirements, and spoke with John Wayne Airport to confirm that. I also saw that Alaska ordered the short field performance package for their -800’s, which would definitely make it work. If you know something more, please do let us know.

      Beyond that, there are quite a few other route possibilities from Southern California that haven’t yet been exploited. These include more island destinations from existing gateways as well as services from Burbank and Ontario and of course, airports on up towards the Bay Area. Not entirely different from airports Allegiant was considering.

      Thanks for writing.

      Aloha, Jeff

  3. Jeff… My boyfriend and I are going to Kauai (PDX to LIH) in July this year, would you recommend that we wait a little longer to buy tickets (will they get any cheaper than the $600-700/person – or more – prices I see now)? Will Alaska have flights from PDX to LIH that soon do you think?? Any advice would be great!

    1. Hi Christina,

      I’m not sure about PDX/LIH. I think Central and Southern California are more pressing for Alaska in the short term. I just looked and found Delta (via LAX – sorry) for $549 multiple dates early in July. That’s quite good. Hawaiian and Alaska start at over $800 RT. My inclination for July would be to buy now. Unless something changes, it’s shaping up to be a mostly expensive summer for travel.



  4. Last week I gave up trying to find a reasonably priced flight from Pittsburgh to Hilo and paid almost $1100 each for tickets for my husband and I. We have to travel the last two weeks in March…we are flying on Wednesdays – not even on the weekend and that was the best we could do.

    To add insult to injury – we are only allowed one carry on each and if we want to check a suitcase, it will cost us an additional $50 each way.

    If my daughter didn’t live in Hilo, and it wasn’t for our 40th wedding anniversary, I’d forget the whole idea. Last year we flew to London for our son’s wedding in January and it was cheaper to fly to Heathrow than to Hawaii this year. Air travel is expensive and no longer the least bit pleasurable.

    1. Hi Peggy,

      I concur with you on all counts but one. It doesn’t seem fair to compare Pittsburgh/Hilo during Spring Break to Pittsburgh/London (which is 1/2 the distance) in January.

      On the $1,100, I’m not sure if this would have worked for you, but there is a $710 fare from Cleveland to Hilo via Honolulu on Delta valid for all of March. I know that’s over 100 miles, but to save $400 a person….

      Moreover, if anyone ever needs personal assistance finding the best deal, feel free to use our contact page and for a nominal fee, I’ll be happy to help.

  5. I am glad to see the increase in number of airlines and flights to the islands, but I would hate to see any adverse impact on Hawaiian Air for two reasons: 1) They are the islands’ own airline and have persevered through good and bad times. 2) Both the airlines, as a whole, and the employees have always treated us very well. This has included the time when the company waived a rescheduling fee when it did not have to, and the personable demeanor of and many indiividual kindnesses shown by the employees, both on the ground and in the air.

  6. Allegiant would be great if they would fly from Santa Maria (SMX). (A) They already have service from here to Las Vegas and beyond. (B) Santa Maria, CA. is the Largest City between Salinas/Monterey and Ventura/Oxnard.CA. (C) SMX is the easiest and most logical position for a Hawaiian flight. It is the flattest, great for Pilots. It is closest to Vandenberg Air Force Base, which is a missile test center and Military Satellite launching center. and this area has a steady income base because of the Military and Produce industry (2nd largest vegetable producing area in U.S. And we have kids that live on Kauai. So, come on down. We need you.

  7. I love Hawaii and Southwest…2012 can’t come fast enough! I travel to Hawaii yearly and I am so disappointed at the cost of airfare these days. I am looking at $1000+ for the last 2 weeks in April, traveling from the DC area. Do you have any sale predictions for April or am I stuck with $1000 due to the “spring break” timeframe?

    1. Hi Christina,

      I think we will see sales for the after Spring break and before summer time frame. Actually it seems we should be seeing them quite soon.



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