Updated 4/1/20. As you are all too well aware, travel to Hawaii is on hold for now. While the State of Hawaii has restrictions in place through April 30, Hawaiian Airlines has indicated a differing point of view. That, as they have cancelled virtually all flights except for essential service, through May 20.
Beat of Hawaii: We’ll go out on a limb and say that neither one of those is probably right, so read on for what our crystal ball is indicating. Furthermore, when Hawaii travel resumes, get ready for what may be somewhat of a roller coaster ride. Lastly, see our updated strategies for when to buy travel to Hawaii after tourism resume.
Time frame: When Hawaii air travel will resume.
We don’t claim to have more knowledge than the state or than our bellwether airline. But we are researchers by nature, and we’ve gone to some lengths to investigate this. According to multiple sources including the University of Washington, it may take a few weeks longer than the mainland for it to be safe for Hawaii travel to resume. It is projected that the East Coast will see improvements before the West Coast and then Hawaii would be after that. But the good news is that travel could be back in June to July, and who knows, it still might be earlier.
What will the cost of Hawaii airfare be?
We anticipate very aggressive pricing not only for Hawaii travel, but globally, when travel restrictions are finally relaxed. That as airlines regroup and restart operations. That having been said there will be long term ramifications for Hawaii air travel, so read on for those.
Will airfares drop below $100 each way?
Yes, definitely. To bring people back to Hawaii travel, we are anticipating the lowest fares ever seen, at least to start. In the short term, we expect airfares may start in the range of $79-$99 each way from the west coast and just over double that from more distant cities, including the east coast. Those fares will be for travel through fall 2020.
For travel at high season, including Thanksgiving, Christmas, and thereafter, prices should remain competitively low. That assumes that all three Hawaii-centric airlines continue to operate here as they have been doing, which is what we expect. Thus, high season Hawaii airfares may be starting in the $175+ each way range, from the west coast.
Expect big changes including Hawaii airline industry consolidation.
Big changes are ahead for Hawaii air travel in the mid to long term. It is clear, and is being widely reported, that the U.S. airline industry will be consolidating and contracting, with less competition, perhaps new regulation, and more.
While this may not occur even this year, we also expect the cost of travel to Hawaii to rise over time. In fact the cost of all air travel is subject to the same circumstances and will be going up.
U.S. airlines and the US Dept. of Transportation may still temporarily ground all flights before it is said and done. They will also be looking at strategies including a temporary (or perhaps longer term) consolidation of air service, as is needed to help cut airline losses. What that could look like here is that airlines would sell seats on each other’s flights. So you’ll still have a flight, for example, from San Jose to Maui. But, it isn’t out of the question that no matter whose aircraft is actually flying, Southwest, Alaska, Hawaiian (and others) might all sell seats on that exact same flight.
This won’t happen overnight and, if it does happen, will require complex negotiations between government and airlines, including cost-sharing and scheduling. But when it happens, and we’re quite certain that it will, you won’t see any more $99 airfares. Instead that could cause airfares from the west coast to rise over time to at least double or more, for low season flights to Hawaii.
On Friday, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said, “I can assure you, we’re losing money on every single flight, and big money, so that can’t be sustained indefinitely,”
Buying strategies for cheap flights to Hawaii WHEN Hawaii air travel resumes.
Good news here is that airlines have moved to helping passengers more at this time. For example, see Hawaiian Airlines Now Offers Refund Option on Tickets. Therefore, if you are buying for travel starting when flights resume, you should be protected by refund options in the event anything does change.
We are inclined to suggest buying sooner rather than later following resumption of flights, inasmuch as we expect to see the best prices soon thereafter.
As always, we look forward to and appreciate your input.
Photo from Maui Kai at Kaanapali Beach.