Many cheap flights to Hawaii are now in the class of service generally referred to as basic economy. These new fares were the innovation of Delta Airlines, which launched basic economy over five years ago. Now, every airline flying to Hawaii has their version of basic economy, with the exception of Hawaiian Airlines and Southwest Airlines.
So just what does basic economy to Hawaii entail?
See product offerings of each airline’s below followed by our pick for winner. In addition to the specifics, do check if you are trying to accrue frequent flyer points, as how that works on a basic economy ticket varies.
Alaska was last to this party with its saver fare announced earlier this year for ticket sales to begin this month and flights commencing in January. With Alaska’s basic economy you still get a free carry-on. Seats are automatically assigned at check in (this aspect may change when it is unveiled), and will most likely be in the back of the plane. You will also be boarding last. Tickets are non-changeable and non-cancellable after the first 24-hours. Uniquely, fee based upgrades are permitted. Service on-board is otherwise identical to regular economy.
American’s basic economy does not provide seat selection. Those are assigned at check-in (24-hours prior to flight). If you wish to pay extra, however, you may be able to snag a seat assignment up to 48 hours prior to flight. Free carry-on is permitted, although since you’ll be boarding last, finding a space could be a challenge. No upgrades or changes, or cancellation after 24-hours. Service on-board is otherwise identical to regular economy.
Delta basic economy provides seat assignment selection at check-in. There are no changes, cancellations or upgrades permitted. Free carry-on and personal item are included. Service on-board is otherwise identical to regular economy.
Hawaii’s bellwether hasn’t yet introduced basic economy. We wrote previously about Hawaiian Airlines basic economy and do expect to see some form of it introduced in the not distant future.
Southwest has never had a basic economy offering.
Their basic economy includes one small personal item on-board (no regular carry-on). It is possible to change a ticket for a fee, and seat selection is also possible for a fee.
Seat assignment is provided at 24-hours prior to flight for free, or up to 48-hours in advance for a fee of $10 to Hawaii. Service on-board is otherwise identical to regular economy. You will board last, and use of overhead storage is available for an additional $25 fee. Otherwise, only under seat storage is permitted. Premier members are entitled to a standard carry-on even on basic economy fares. There are no changes, cancellations or upgrades permitted.
Basic economy offers standard carry-on plus personal item. Seats are automatically assigned at check-in. There are no changes, cancellations or upgrades permitted. Service on-board is otherwise identical to regular economy.
Which basic economy is best? The winner is Alaska Airlines.
Why is Alaska’s new Saver Fare best among basic economy offerings? Overall, the limitations seem less onerous than the other airlines. For one, a full size carry-on bag plus personal item are included. If you change your mind about basic economy after purchase, upgrades will be available for a fee to regular/premium economy. Limitations of this fare class mean that family members may not get to travel together, making this a good bet when traveling or wishing to sit alone.