Hawaiian Airlines' New Systems Have Kinks To Resolve

Hawaiian Adds $19-23 Fee for Many Economy Seats

On today’s Hawaiian Airlines earnings call, Peter Ingram, company CEO, addressed some new pricing that has just started, and we have to say it caught us off-guard. We had not noticed it previously. These are described as “Preferred Seats,” and we have the details below. Now, unless you want the most undesirable seats on the plane, you’ll need to pay up.

Our take is that this is a way to raise Hawaii airfares by between $38 and $46 per person, round-trip for many people. If, on the other hand, you don’t care where you sit, then either the no-cost option to sit in the back, or even the basic economy option without advance seat assignment entirely may make more sense. See those differences below. Finally, this is a level of service that Hawaiian’s customers had historically expected to be complimentary. But the reality of today’s economy appears to dictate otherwise. 

On another note, some airlines charge more or less depending on your loyalty being a frequent flyer or having their branded credit card. We did not see that indicated here. 

“Preferred Seats” are not “Extra Comfort Domestic.” Here’s the difference.

Their website says, Preferred is + $19 to $23 per seat. “Grab a favorable seat in Main Cabin. These are our most popular standard legroom seats.” Preferred seats, according to Hawaiian, will add between $10 and $15 Million to their annual revenue.

You’ll pay for a regular seat without benefits like you get with Extra Comfort.

Hawaiian’s Extra Comfort is a different, more premium-economy-like offering. It provides extra legroom, priority boarding/screening, plus the in-seat A/C power plug, from $54 to $144 extra. Preferred, on the other hand, just gives you an economy seat that has a somewhat better location.

This type of offering is certainly nothing new in the industry, but on the other hand, for Hawaiian, it is. Preferred is similar to what many other airlines do. The product offered is not in any way different than any other economy seat. Instead, you choose a seat more forward in the cabin (although not necessarily), or otherwise, a seat construed as more desirable.

On A330 aircraft, we found some of those were even the middle pair of seats in the four across the plane’s mid-section. Others showing a $23 cost were window or aisle seats.

On A321 narrow-body aircraft, we found that added cost preferred seat was required on all seats except those in the back in the cabin. Also, middle seats did not have an extra cost no matter where they were in the cabin.

Let’s make it more confusing: Main cabin and main cabin basic options.

1. No seat assignment (free or paid). Main Cabin Basic (basic economy) is offered on some but not all routes. With that option, you get a lower price but there is absolutely no seat selection – seats are only assigned to you at check-in. There are no flight changes, and you board in the last group.

2. Seat assignment options (free or paid). The main cabin is their version of full fare economy, which means you can choose your seats, although there may or may not be an extra charge. You may sit together with companions too. Flight changes are permitted. There are no change fees (but fare differences do apply)—also, there’s earlier access to overhead bins.

Please share your thoughts on buying “Preferred Seats” on Hawaiian.

 

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