State Last to Recognize Sting Of Hawaii Anti-Tourism Sentiment

Study Reveals Abysmal Rankings | Flights To Hawaii Winners/Losers

The recent study from veteran researchers at WalletHub dealt a blow to the airlines we most think of as being associated with Hawaii. Those being Hawaiian Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and Southwest Airlines.

WalletHub studied several issues most useful to Hawaii visitors and another group that are potentially less helpful to Hawaii visitors. As the researchers said, finding the cheapest price is arguably an easier feat. However, uncovering these overlooked but important aspects of flights to Hawaii can help us make better-informed decisions.

The study included all airlines flying to Hawaii.

This study looked at the 9 largest U.S. airlines and two other regional carriers, using 14 valuable metrics. Those included cancellations, flight delays, baggage handling and loss, and in-flight comfort tests. We removed the airlines in their study that do not fly to or from Hawaii for our purposes. Only US domestic carriers were included. We also excluded pet rankings as being largely irrelevant to Hawaii visitors.

Best airline overall.

  • Winner: Delta Airlines.
  • Loser: Southwest Airlines.

In the best airline overall category, the winner was Delta Airlines. They were followed by runner-up Alaska, then United, Hawaiian, American, and in last place, Southwest.

Delta Air Lines 66.79
United Airlines 62.83
Alaska Airlines 59.03
Hawaiian Airlines 57.14
American Airlines 47.06
Southwest Airlines 23.39

BOH: We were surprised that Southwest came in last, at least considering their Hawaii flights. That result is likely primarily a result of their low safety ranking and recent issues.  

Most reliable airline.

  • Winner: Delta Airlines.
  • Loser: Southwest Airlines.

Delta Air Lines 34.12
United Airlines 32.35
Hawaiian Airlines 27.55
Alaska Airlines 22.77
American Airlines 19.09
Southwest Airlines 10.70

BOH: The difference in rankings between Delta on the top end and Southwest on the bottom end is dramatic. This was based on the lowest rate of cancelations, delays, mishandled luggage, and denied boardings.

Most comfortable airline.

  • Winner: Delta Airlines.
  • Loser: Hawaiian Airlines.

Delta Air Lines 4.63
Alaska Airlines 4.63
American Airlines 4.63
Southwest Airlines 4.63
United Airlines 4.50
Hawaiian Airlines 4.00

BOH: We don’t have adequate personal experience to draw from about Delta being the most comfortable airline. In the next month, Beat of Hawaii will be flying Delta and offering up new reviews on Delta Airlines to Hawaii. It was surprising to see Hawaiian ranked dead last, even behind all legacy carriers in this regard. We commented on less-than-expected comfort when we reviewed Hawaiian Airlines regular economy and were surprised by better-than-expected comfort in our Southwest Hawaii flight review. See the photos. 

Most affordable airline.

  • Winner: Hawaiian Airlines.
  • Loser: American Airlines.

Hawaiian Airlines 11.89¢/mile
Alaska Airlines 12.02¢/mile
Southwest Airlines 13.35¢/mile
United Airlines 13.93¢/mile
Delta Air Lines 14.78¢/mile
American Airlines 14.79¢/mile

BOH: We found this interesting. It reflects ongoing competition in the most significant Hawaii marketplace, being from Southern California. We would have expected the three most Hawaii-centric airlines to rank closely together, and that is, in fact, the case.  

Safest Airline.

  • Winner: Alaska Airlines.
  • Loser: Southwest Airlines.

Alaska Airlines 22.91
Hawaiian Airlines 21.78
American Airlines 21.30
Delta Air Lines 21.26
United Airlines 20.46
Southwest Airlines 4.11

BOH: This was based on the number of fatal injuries, injuries, incidents and accidents, and average fleet age. Southwest’s rating was dinged by all injuries. Airlineratings.com also did a recent study of the safest airlines, which did not include Southwest among the safest choices. 

Please let us know your thoughts on the best airlines for flights to Hawaii!

Source: Wallethub: 2023 Best Airlines.

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30 thoughts on “Study Reveals Abysmal Rankings | Flights To Hawaii Winners/Losers”

  1. Historically, the airlines most associated with flights to Hawaii do not include Alaska or Southwest. They are relative newcomers to Hawai`i. Hawaiian and United have offered service to and within Hawaiʻi for many years; Hawaiian since 1929 and United since 1947. Safety record? If you want to talk safety, Hawaiian founded in 1929 is one of the safest airlines in the world.

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  2. Well, i hope your review encourages SWA to maintain a cost advantage over the competition because we fly only SWA to our Kona home and will remain loyal to them. The survey results are in direct opposition to our experience with them.

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  3. We flew to Hawaii our first time on united without a hitch. Decided to try Hawaiian airlines this next trip and we have had nothing but trouble already and we havent even left yet. Their customer service is non existent. I have spent countless hours on the phone and none were knowledgeable. Very disappointed. I pray the flights are better than trying to get there. If i didnt have points I would be looking elsewhere. I pray our flights ate there when it comes time to go.

  4. I just returned from a very brief trip, Vegas to Kona on Southwest, which is where I usually find the best price and schedule. Outgoing flight, change of planes in San Jose. The flights were great but my checked bag didn’t leave Las Vegas, even though I checked it an hour before the flight. The agents in Kona were not very helpful and actually lied to me. (I was able to get a voucher for future travel by calling customer service.) The baggage claim area was disgustingly filthy. I had to wait 90 minutes for the rest of my party to arrive and contacted several people about trying to have a dead bird removed but no one was interested and kept passing the buck to someone else. The experience at Kona has affected my love of the LUV airline.

    1. Baggage facility is not under the control of SWA. That’s the airports responsibility.
      Obviously losing your baggage is another story.

  5. There are multiple reasons people chose an airline which this ‘study’ doesn’t include, most notably using frequent flyer miles for ‘free’ tickets as well as availability and convenience. We live in the Denver area which is United’s largest hub and offers daily nonstops to each of the four islands which saves roughly 2.5 hrs travel time, not to mention the hassle and inconvenience of changing planes and layovers. Given that there are many high mileage flyers in the Denver area as well the West coast (LAX/SFO) I’m guessing a significant number of frequent flyers take advantage of this option…

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  6. In the past 10+ years I have had the opportunity to fly Hawaiian, Southwest and Alaska Airlines. Being from the Sacramento hub these were the only ones available to fly to Maui. The main reason for my choice is the availability of a direct non stop flight to OGG. At one time or the other only these three offered that. The best of these three was Alaska Airlines. Comfort, timeliness, food were all exceptionally good. Second was Hawaiian Airlines. These two did offer direct flights to OGG. Food snacks were served and everything else was good. Last most certainly was Southwest. I have a Southwest card and used some of the points to fly. I am mostly a SW flyer stateside, but the particular trip I took was late, end of 750 characters.

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  7. We just used Hawaiian Airlines again for direct flights between Oakland and Lihue. We were in first class which is very small. The seats barely recline and there is no Wi-Fi available. The plane was probably less then half full on a morning flight on 4/18. I have never found Hawaiian to have a really first class experience. My friend here in Kauai flies frequently on a red eye to Las Vegas and enjoys a flat lay down seat on Hawaiian . I don’t know if they pay more or less for that experience!

    1. So you didn’t know what kind of plane you were flying on or what kind of seats to expect?

      When you book your tickets and select your seats it tells you if you have lay flat or recliner in F.

      Lihue doesn’t have any planes going to it that have lay flat except for the LAS – LIH route. Everything else is lay flat.

  8. Hawaiian Airlines was one time a top airlines to fly. Their on time departure was punctual and communication on seating, gate changes, was timely and clear.
    I would only fly Hawaiian unless I was forced to fly somewhere Hawaiian did not have a route to my destination. Over the years they taken their eye off the ball and things have gone south. My family and n friends no longer fly Hawaiian. So disappointed in service, delays, poor communication. Get your act together Hawaiian Airlines your second…..from the bottom!

  9. We’ve flown to Hawaii from PHX a dozen times and have always flown Hawaiian. Only 1 flight daily but we’ve watched BOH for fare alerts and have taken advantage of them in most cased (thanks guys!) No other airline has the Aloha vibe or connection. When HI stops their assault on visitors we may come back. Ready for another coffee in Koala!

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  10. Some airlines only have one type of aircraft while there some with multiple air craft type seating unfair to compare seating this wayl

  11. Well so much for the “Southwest Effect” of them having the lowest fares and bring all the extra people over. 😉

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  12. We fly American from PHX because it is nonstop to Kauai. We have never had an issue with them. We fly Hawaiian home because they have better times than the other airlines. We hate red eye flights and used to be able to fly nonstop home. Those flights are hard to find and super expensive now. So, for us it is about flight times that work.

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  13. Why limit this study to US based airlines? I assume there is a significant travel component from Canada. This is a classic American “the world ends at the 49th parallel” perspective. BOH is better than this… or so I thought.

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    1. Based on what I read here, the source data did not include non-US carriers, so the authors of this post could not include them. We can debate how pervasive and unattractive the ‘Murica First! attitude is (too pervasive, downright ugly), but it doesn’t seem to apply in this case.

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    1. United is one of the original US carriers to serve Hawaii. Northwest and PanAm were also pioneers in Hawaii service. PanAm was the first airline with flying boats that actually landed at Pearl Harbor before the airport was built.

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  14. Very little validity to this “study’s” conclusions. As always, one must read the fine print under the “methodology” section. Airlines with older aircraft get penalized due to safety concerns? Tell that to the crash victims of the new 737MAX a few years ago. Cheaper fare airlines get more points? For a flight to HI from California the difference between top and lowest score was only $48. Injuries on flights lower the score? Most injuries are from turbulence which is totally unpredictable by the crew and for which seatbelts are the solution. This “study” is weak.

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    1. Very true Elmo, Also odd…Hawaiian is the oldest US carrier (1929) and has never had a fatal accident…..Alaska has had many over the years. SWA has actually had very few, albeit a handful of fatalities but never an entire plane load. They have had a lot of incidents….overruns and ground collisions from their save time mantra so perhaps that is why their score is so low? Not sure about their methodology.

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  15. None of this surprises me. I’m a long time Delta flyer for a reason, and I fly a lot for business, and I always fly Delta to Hawaii. A big part of that is because of my business travel I have status on Delta, and I have a lot of points as well so I am able to upgrade to Comfort+ or First Class every time. My biggest complaint about Delta is that they don’t have a lot of flights in general, and even fewer direct flights to Kona. They do have a deal with Hawaiian, so I can book a flight on Hawaiian through Delta and get all of my perks. However, if I do have to stop in Honolulu I can’t pick seats when I switch to the interisland flight. That’s a Pity, so I try to stick to the Delta flights.

    1. And speaking of Delta, how are you liking their constant award increases and the shrinking value of their Sky Pesos?

      1. The problem is that they have the best clubs and everyone and his brother wants to get in them so they are over crowded. So Delta is making it more difficult to get in to try and address the overcrowding. Personally, I’m good with that since I’ve been a member clean back to when it was something that only Delta’s most loyal customers had access to and I would be happy to see it return to that.

        1. The problem with Delta is they continue to devalue their award program with no notice and now their Sky Pesos are about worth half (if that) then they were just a few years ago. Did you remember how many times they raised the cost of an award between now and before the pandemic? 3 times?
          A good airline but if you are flying them to earn miles and redeem them, I’d look at another award program.

  16. Need to factor in the best Frequent Flyer programs, cancellation policy, # flights, etc. Many choose the airline where they have status and points on the airline loyal program as a major factor.

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    1. Mike, exactly. And the way frequent flyer programs reward different groups of flyers. For example, Hawaiian Miles offers good value for tourists and local commute type people but has long underperformed for actual frequent Hawaii flyers. (For starters, they offer decent mileage credit, but very limited upgrades to first class cabins (coupons) which many of us longtime Platinums find really hard to use.) Alaska has a better program here.

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