It’s hard to imagine booking a flight to the mainland for 49-dollars, or a flight to a neighbor island for 29-dollars — but those were some of the introductory fares Southwest Airlines initially offered.
They were snapped up immediately. Southwest fares from Honolulu to Maui are now 49-dollars for most flights and Hawaiian Airlines is matching the fare on many of its flights.
Competition is heating up in interisland air travel, with Southwest Airlines entering the market and Hawaiian Airlines matching Southwest’s introductory fares, saving travelers money — and perhaps getting people to take trips they might not otherwise have taken.
Bruce Fisher, owner of Hawaii Aloha Travel, has been closely watching the situation. “We’re looking at now fares being $49, they came out, it was $29 to start, but yes, this is a disruptor, for sure.”
Fisher has clients booked through December and many are eager to see, with this new competition, if they’ll be able to save money on getting here, to have more to spend while in the islands.
“Folks now might be able to take advantage of cheaper air fares. Especially, we have a lot of families, you know, five, six, 10 people in a family, just to fly from Honolulu to Kona, that’s $1,000. That’s going to be cut by a third, when you have $49 air fares.”
Fisher’s business primarily books travel from the mainland to Hawaii — and the mainland is an arena where he also sees the new competition affecting fares.
“And right now, the only game is Oakland, and I was just pricing out Oakland (for Southwest fares) versus Hawaiian in August, and Southwest, actually Hawaiian was beating Southwest.”
As an established, value airline, Southwest has loyal, regular customers, which Fisher says can only mean higher visitor numbers for Hawaii.
“I think it’s gonna increase the numbers and I think it’s gonna help all the way around. I don’t think there’s any negative part of it. And I think people should embrace it, I think we should all embrace it, and support it, you know, support it the best we can, because we need, we need this competition.”
Hawaiian Airlines, meantime, has local loyalty.
Just like with many new products at a grocery store with low introductory pricing — the fare war will not last forever — so it may be time to book a neighbor island vacation. Why should our visitors have all the fun?