Taking Flight

Airlift to the islands remains affordable this fall

By: By Skye Mayring

Hawaii Fall Value Vacations

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With the March 31 demise of Aloha Airlines, followed by the closure of ATA on April 3, potential travelers to the islands are looking to agents for answers.

Who still flies to Hawaii and with what frequency? Have prices increased dramatically? How can I get the most value from my beach vacation during the traditionally low fall season?

According to Sabre Airline Solutions, some 18 commercial carriers currently service the 50th state, including Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, Northwest Airlines and US Airways.

Hawaiian Airlines selected a new gateway city this year. // (c) Hawaiian Airlines
Hawaiian Airlines selected a new gateway city this year.

Some of these carriers, like Honolulu-based Hawaiian Airlines, don’t seem to be fazed by this year’s closures and economic slowdown.

Differentiating itself from mainland competitors, Hawaiian launched a new nonstop service between Oakland, Calif., and Honolulu this spring and has begun preparations for integrating a new fleet of wide-body A330-200 and A350XWB-800 aircraft, which will replace its current wide-body fleet of Boeing 767s over the next decade.

But how do all these factors impact the average client’s wallet? The truth is that airfare prices across the board are up this year vis-a-vis fall 2007’s rates.

"And Hawaiian Airlines is no different because none of the airlines are immune to the problem of high-priced fuel," said Keoni Wagner, vice president of public affairs, Hawaiian Airlines. "Despite our fuel cost being up 70 to 80 percent this year, we’ve got some pretty attractive fares right now."

These special offers include less than $400 fares out of Portland and Seattle, both offering daily nonstop service to Honolulu and Maui.

Hawaiian Airlines, the Aloha State’s longest-serving airline, is also in the process of expanding its interisland fleet to accommodate travelers in the wake of the other airline closures. Four Boeing 717-200 aircraft are expected to enter service this fall (two in September, one in
November and the last scheduled for December), and fares will remain comparatively competitive, according to Wagner.

"If travelers look at fares for interisland travel, what they’ll see is that typically fares are lower than you would find for the respective distances on the mainland," he added.

Despite turbulence in interisland airlift, Wagner believes that the overall forecast is positive for Hawaii.

"We’ve reached a point of equilibrium in the interisland market in terms of capacity and pricing that I think will be stable for some time," he continued, adding that Hawaii’s hotels along with the airlines that service the islands are becoming more aggressive in pricing. "Right now, there are some really great values out there, particularly for packages."

Pleasant Holidays, for example, is offering a Fall & Winter Vacation Sale to Hawaii — with savings that total as much as $900 per couple — for bookings made by Sept. 30 for travel through Jan. 31. Beginning at $469 per person, hotel and air packages include roundtrip airfare from Los Angeles or San Francisco, three nights’ accommodations on Maui or five nights’ accommodation on Oahu, hotel taxes and fuel surcharges.

And it appears that wholesalers and tour operators are finding even more creative ways to attract clients this fall, with value-packed add-ons like Happy Vacations’ Bags Fly Free promotion for bookings made by Oct. 31 and United Vacations’ free five-day Alamo economy rental car add-on value.

"The savings are going to vary, depending on which flight and hotel you choose, but the savings are in the hundreds of dollars just by booking the package," said
Tracy Clementi, senior marketing manager, United Vacations.

Agents with inside information know airfare to the Aloha State remains affordable this season — and inquiring minds can rest assured.