There’s good and bad news today, all of it interesting, as airlines learn to work together in what has been the most competitive situation ever seen here in Hawaii. When airlines squabble over routes, airfares are low, and it’s good for travelers. Otherwise, airfares to Hawaii and elsewhere are fast-rising to levels we haven’t seen in some time. But there are still sweet spots and distinct tricks that can help you out, as you’re about to see.
When airlines play nice and competition appears in check, can Hawaii travelers still avoid paying more?
In a nutshell, yes you can. Here’s what is evolving in Hawaii airfares, with ways we hope will help you save more money on your next flight to Hawaii. We’ll share some sample routes so you can see exactly what is happening.
Flights to Hawaii – how competition is controlling airfares.
The routes below benefit more than most from competition between Hawaiian Airlines and Southwest, primarily, as well as from Alaska, American, Delta, and United Airlines. Check sample prices (the lowest we found in each market regardless of date) together with our analysis.
This isn’t a shopping guide in the sense that your dates may not at all correspond with the cheapest fares. It is to give you heads-up on what’s happening when flying to Hawaii from key gateway cities.
- Las Vegas. From $179 one-way on Hawaiian, and $183 on Southwest, with the cheapest prices only to Maui. Competition is good primarily to Maui and less so to Honolulu, for example. Hawaiian is charging $45 more to fly to Honolulu compared with Maui. Tip: It’s almost worth checking fares going through Maui, depending on your dates and airfares.
- Long Beach. $129 one-way on Hawaiian and Southwest. As with Las Vegas, Maui travelers benefit most with a savings of $30 compared with Honolulu. Tip: Look for cheaper-priced fare sales that will occur as unbridled competition is ruling the Maui route to the benefit of customers.
- Los Angeles. $129 one-way Alaska, American, Delta, Hawaiian, Southwest, and United. Occasionally cheaper fare sales will occur since extreme competition is ruling this route, with Maui again benefiting the most. Tip: Los Angeles remains a near-perfect departure city for Hawaii flights.
- New York. $367 on Hawaiian and United. These two airlines are locked in a competition that’s years long, yielding better than expected pricing at most times. Tip: these are the nonstop fares. If you’re willing to have a connection, then fares start from just $238 on American and Delta.
- Oakland. $129 one-way on Hawaiian and Southwest. Competition is continuing at the Southwest hub. Tip: prices should remain below average on this route.
- Phoenix. $129 one-way on $189 one-way on American, Hawaiian, and Southwest. Best fares are to Maui again, and Honolulu, for example, is running an extra $60 or more one-way! Tip: best prices start in January.
- Sacramento. $159 one-way on Hawaiian. Fares are increasing from Sacramento due to less competition. Tip: consider one-stop flights via other airlines, which depending on your travel dates, can save significantly.
- San Diego. $133 one-way on Southwest and $159 on Alaska and Hawaiian. Competition is having a reduced impact on this city’s pricing at the moment, and, as a result, airfares are rising. Tip: There will still be some airfare sales, but Los Angeles will be far more competitive and less costly overall.
- San Jose. $119 one-way on Alaska and Hawaiian and $129 on Southwest. Tip: Good competition will continue to provide the best prices and more fare sales.
7 tricks to using Hawaii airline competition to save money.
1. Check Hawaii airfares on multiple days before booking, especially these days.
It’s always helpful to get a sense of the cost range of Hawaii airfare well before finalizing your plans. Then monitor prices several times at least. The best days to buy, hands down, and this has been true for years, are Tuesdays and Thursdays. Doing this could definitely save you money; it has us. The best days to travel are, of course, midweek.
2. Where do you start checking airfares?
We use Google Flights when we start checking prices. It’s the fastest way, although be forewarned Southwest is the only carrier flying to Hawaii that doesn’t participate there, so you’ll also need to visit their website. Some people like phone apps like Hopper, where you can set alerts, monitor prices, and let them tell you when they think you should buy. No matter where you look, we always buy directly from the airline we will be flying on, and never, ever on any third-party website.
3. Consider flying out of the airports that feature the greatest competition.
A trick we have been doing for years is to check prices from and to alternate airports. On the mainland, that could mean driving to LAX instead of LGB or even heading to SAN. Obvious disadvantages, however, include your time, and costs like airport parking. And when saving some by driving adds more stress, that needs to be taken into consideration too.
4. Plan your Hawaii vacation around the art of the deal.
If you are footloose and can manage it, let the prices decide when you come to Hawaii. If you have kids in school or jobs that aren’t that flexible, this may not apply to you.
5. Don’t rule out any airline.
As you saw yesterday, we went rogue and flew on Southwest Airlines, even though Hawaiian has been our go-to for decades. And you know what, it was far better than we expected. Everything went great; we could have checked two bags for free (we will next time) and changed flights online without any fees to contend with.
6. Know your requirements and what each airline will provide. Checked bags are a case in point. If you will take advantage of them, then calculate the cost of those (or the lack of cost) into your budgeting. What about seat assignments, extra legroom or early boarding costs, if those are even available?
7. Use an airline-branded credit card.
These can make a big difference, for example, in the cost of checked bags. They are included free with most airline credit cards. We also like the extra points we accrue from using Alaska and Hawaiian cards and have converted those to valuable travel and upgrades on them or partner carriers.