What Hawaii airline of the past comes to mind for its crappy planes, bad service, delayed and cancelled flights, and passengers being nickel and dimed for everything? If you guessed Allegiant, you’re right.
The airline had two good years of route options and then started pulling back to having only a flight daily between Las Vegas and Honolulu. After a tumultuous few years and the significant downward spiral we all witnessed, Allegiant pulled the plug entirely in 2017 and stopped flying here.
But wait, it may not be over! Significant changes are afoot at the Las Vegas-based airline that makes us think service to Hawaii may be resuscitated.
Yesterday’s news gave editor Jeff dreams (nightmares) of Allegiant’s Hawaii return.
Allegiant Air has just announced, what is for it, an enormous order for Boeing 737 MAX airplanes. They are now planning for there to be as many as 130 of the new Hawaii-capable aircraft. Those orders will come in the form of both firm purchase agreements and options.
It started early last year when the company began deals with Boeing for purchases of two 737 MAX models. Planes were to have been delivered starting this year. To our knowledge, these haven’t appeared in their fleet as of today. But it certainly won’t be long for them to start acquiring these for their flight arsenal, with deliveries starting before year’s end.
Even while the company’s CEO reasserted recently that they remain focused largely on pre-owned planes, this huge and groundbreaking-for-their-size order clearly says something different. These Boeing MAX jets are new purchase, direct-from-manufacturer aircraft.
These will provide “flexibility for capacity growth and aircraft retirements, significant environmental benefits, and modern configuration and cabin features our customers will appreciate.”Allegiant
State of the art fuel-efficiency is critical to Hawaii flights.
Airlines have quickly moved to the most fuel-efficient planes for their Hawaii flights, including American with A321, Delta, with A321, Hawaiian with A321, Southwest with 737 MAX, and United with 737 MAX (and A321). This comes too as the airlines strive for carbon neutrality. Allegiant clearly plans to be a part of this movement.
Why Allegiant Hawaii flights were such a bad bet in the past.
First, the airline used an old and frequently unreliable small fleet of Boeing 757 aircraft that they added specifically to fly to the islands. Towards the end, the company was facing unwanted and expensive heavy maintenance checks on old planes.
When Allegiant arrived in Hawaii, there were very high hopes.
That was back in 2012 when they announced Allegiant Hawaii flights from eight cities, including Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Bellingham, Phoenix, Boise, Eugene, Fresno, and Stockton. These included some unique routes that no one else has offered that might well have been popular for leisure destination travel that’s within Allegiant’s wheelhouse.
But in less than two years, reality struck as Allegiant stopped all routes except Los Angeles and Las Vegas to Honolulu, followed by the termination of Los Angeles and, ultimately, Las Vegas.
Prior problems with Allegiant Hawaii started with their fleet.
Allegiant bought six used Boeing 757-200 aircraft in 2010 for Hawaii flights, which was followed by obtain ETOPS certifications for Hawaii over water flights. For whatever reasons, the planes were not adequately reliabiable, especially in a small fleet, to keep operations running smoothly.
Here’s a whole history of Allegiant Air Hawaii problems.
Why Allegiant Hawaii flights were never popular.
1. Limited service model including seats that did not recline. As for recline, there remains adequate controversy about this function to question whether it will continue to be offered widely by airlines or not. We flew on a European full-service airline last week (SWISS), and within Europe, it had no recline, but seats were pre-reclined permanently to a degree and also had spring-loaded seat backs that offered temporary recline.
2. A la carte pricing, including fees for carry-on luggage. Pioneered by Spirit and Frontier, Allegiant was also an early adopter of carry-on bag fees. Others like United continue to play with such fees, which aren’t ever out of the question as airlines look for more ancillary income. These fees have become customary in most places outside the US. Editor Editor Jeff just flew the huge European carrier Easy-Jet and found he had to pay a fee for seat assignment, carry-on-bag, and checked bag. Also, because he wanted extra legroom, it caused his $40 flight to mushroom in cost to $120.
3. Multiple newsworthy service delays and safety concerns. Not only were their planes unreliable, but that problem, compounded with their general lack of customer service, meant passengers were notably stranded, which in part dealt the death blow to people not wanting to be stuck heading across the Pacific. When we met the Allegiant execs as they arrived in Hawaii, they clearly told us Allegiant is not a “high touch” airline. It is about getting people cheaply from point A to point B.
Where would Allegiant fit this time in Hawaii flights?
We’d like to hear your thoughts on this matter. If the offering is of standard enough quality, as well as reliable and well-priced, we do see the opportunity for unique routes, some of which they tried before without success. Travel could commence on the US West Coast as well as a range of cities inland that can be reached with the MAX.
A final note is that, even years later, Allegiant still doesn’t rank well in airline reviews. That bit them here in Hawaii last time, and could again, should they return to Hawaii, even with new planes.