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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