If you love the current $39 airfares being driven by Hawaii’s relative newcomer Southwest Airlines, and largely matched by bellwether Hawaiian Airlines, here’s our best suggestion:
Get them quick and enjoy them while you can.
Your editors are taking our own advice and flying all over the state until the end of the year.
In many comments noted below, you’ve said you are grateful for the hugely reduced cost of flying interisland with both airlines. Frankly, who can complain about that?
But where is this heading? We looked around, and here’s what we can tell you. We compared the ten shortest nonstop routes that Southwest offers, both in Hawaii and on the mainland. The results are eye-opening.
$39 isn’t sustainable for any airline.
We have no insider information on the cost structures of the airlines. But it is our sense, having been in Hawaii travel for nearly two decades, that the actual cost to provide an interisland flight is somewhere closer to $75 per passenger. That is for island jaunts of from 100 to 250 miles.
The information below tells the story of just where these airfares are heading. The cheapest average airfare on Southwest’s shortest routes other than Hawaii is about 250% higher than the promotional $39 fare offered around the islands. In three of those markets, there are also short-term promotional $79-$81 airfares. Otherwise, the cheapest average fares in their shortest and comparable markets are $111.20 each way. That’s 284% higher than the current interisland sale prices. That in fact, tells you just where Hawaii interisland airfares are heading.
Dive into comparable prices on Southwest’s shortest routes.
Following are Southwest’s shortest distance routes and the cheapest price offered in each market. Those marked with an asterisk have promotional fares available in the short term.
In a nutshell, Southwest is looking for interisland airfares to be $109-$120 each way to match other routes they fly of similar distance on the mainland.
- Colorado Springs to Denver – 73 miles; $120
- Maui to Kona – 84 miles; $39*
- Maui to Honolulu – 101 miles; $39*
- Kauai to Honolulu – 102 miles; $39*
- Grand Rapids to Chicago – 137 miles; $109
- Houston to Austin – 148 miles; $81/$109*
- Greenville to Atlanta – 153 miles; $109
- Baltimore to Norfolk – $159 miles; $81/$109*
- Kona, Hawaii (KOA) – Honolulu (HNL): 163 miles; $39*
- Orlando to Fort Lauderdale: 177 miles; $79*
* Promotions are currently in effect.
When will the prices increase?
That is the million dollar question. As we said, this is an incredible battle between Hawaiian and Southwest. Southwest has the deepest pockets to sustain this pricing, and arguably significantly lower costs, while Hawaiian has the most at stake given that Hawaii is their be-all.
We’ll all have to wait and see. Interisland airfares had started rising again prior to the latest drop to $39. Undoubtedly the airlines will try to raise prices again soon. But whether they will stick next time, is anyone’s guess.
The current $39 promotion is set to expire on 12/31. That provides some indication of when things could change. Flights starting in January are currently listed as starting from $59, but that doesn’t mean much about what they will actually be when we get closer.
Comments get things started; add yours.
Many comments have expressed support for the hometown Hawaiian Airlines and the competitive Southwest effect that has driven down ticket costs.
Puna said, “I’m happy that we have competing airlines for our Hawaiian interisland flights. It keeps the flights affordable and helps locals fly interisland much more frequently.”
Donna said, “This local girl is going with HA.”