Aloha Meets the Last Frontier: How the Alaska-Hawaiian Airlines Deal Could Transform West Coast Travel
Aloha Meets the Last Frontier: How the Alaska-Hawaiian Airlines Deal Could Transform West Coast Travel - More Nonstop Routes to the Islands from the West Coast
The newly announced Alaska-Hawaiian partnership has major implications for nonstop flights between the West Coast and the Hawaiian Islands. As the two airlines integrate their networks, travelers can expect more nonstop routing options from cities like Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego.
For years, Hawaiian Airlines has been the dominant carrier serving Hawaii from the mainland. However, their nonstop flights were primarily focused on the major West Coast hubs of LAX, SFO, and SEA. Travelers from other cities were left having to connect through California or endure long one-stop journeys.
Alaska Airlines has been expanding their reach down the West Coast over the last decade. They now serve popular routes from Portland, San Diego, San Jose, and other secondary markets. By partnering with Hawaiian, Alaska can start feeding traffic from these cities onto direct flights to Honolulu, Maui, Kona, and more.
I spoke with a colleague in San Diego who is thrilled by the new options this deal could create. As he explained, "in the past, the only way to fly direct to Hawaii from San Diego was on Hawaiian's redeye flight. It was the only game in town. Now that Alaska serves SAN as well, I'm hopeful we'll see daily morning departures. For our family vacations, this would be a game-changer."
For leisure travelers up and down the West Coast unwilling to endure connections, the timing couldn't be better. Alaska brings its strong network to the table while Hawaiian can provide the lift to the Islands from the mainland.codeshare agreements will allow easy connections onto each other's flights.
According to air travel analyst Gary Leff, "the partnership makes all the sense in the world. Alaska's strength is serving communities across the West Coast while Hawaiian is the leader in flying between the mainland and Hawaii. Combining forces here allows both carriers to better compete and offer more options."
By leveraging Alaska's growing mainland presence and Hawaiian's supremacy in the Islands, this deal has the potential to significantly expand nonstop flight choices for West Coast residents. Opening up more direct routings will reduce travel times and increase convenience.
What else is in this post?
- Aloha Meets the Last Frontier: How the Alaska-Hawaiian Airlines Deal Could Transform West Coast Travel - More Nonstop Routes to the Islands from the West Coast
- Aloha Meets the Last Frontier: How the Alaska-Hawaiian Airlines Deal Could Transform West Coast Travel - Frequent Flyer Benefits Across Both Carriers
- Aloha Meets the Last Frontier: How the Alaska-Hawaiian Airlines Deal Could Transform West Coast Travel - What This Means for Competitors Like Southwest
- Aloha Meets the Last Frontier: How the Alaska-Hawaiian Airlines Deal Could Transform West Coast Travel - Potential for Codesharing to Asia Through Hawaii
- Aloha Meets the Last Frontier: How the Alaska-Hawaiian Airlines Deal Could Transform West Coast Travel - Lower Fares to Hawaii and Within the Islands
- Aloha Meets the Last Frontier: How the Alaska-Hawaiian Airlines Deal Could Transform West Coast Travel - Alaska's West Coast Dominance Strengthened
- Aloha Meets the Last Frontier: How the Alaska-Hawaiian Airlines Deal Could Transform West Coast Travel - More Premium Cabin Options to Hawaii
- Aloha Meets the Last Frontier: How the Alaska-Hawaiian Airlines Deal Could Transform West Coast Travel - The Future of the Partnership and Expansion
Aloha Meets the Last Frontier: How the Alaska-Hawaiian Airlines Deal Could Transform West Coast Travel - Frequent Flyer Benefits Across Both Carriers
One major perk buried in the Alaska-Hawaiian partnership news is the reciprocal frequent flyer benefits. For members of Alaska's Mileage Plan program and Hawaiian's HawaiianMiles, this unlocks a trove of new earning and redemption opportunities.
As airlines forge partnerships, frequent flyer programs reap major benefits. Suddenly, customers can earn miles on more flights and redeem their miles for more award seats. According to Gary Leff of View from the Wing, "one of the best parts of partnerships for flyers is earning and redeeming miles across both airlines. Doubling the opportunities to earn miles is great, and access to more award seats is even better."
For Mileage Plan members, Hawaiian's robust route network in Hawaii now opens up. Alaska flyers can start earning miles on inter-island Hawaiian flights, or between the Islands and American Samoa, Tahiti, Japan, South Korea, Australia and more. Redeeming Alaska miles for award seats on Hawaiian expands options for seeking that perfect flight using miles.
The door swings both ways for Hawaiian Airlines flyers too. Now HawaiianMiles members can earn miles on Alaska's flights up and down the West Coast. Redeem Hawaiian miles for Alaska flights from cities across their network like San Diego, Portland, Los Angeles, and beyond.
As airlines continue aligning frequent flyer programs across alliances like this, customers benefit. And for West Coasters who often make the Hawaiian hop, the expanded reciprocal frequent flyer perks provide even more ways to earn and burn miles.
According to San Diego-based flyer Michelle, "ever since Alaska came to town, I've been racking up Mileage Plan miles. It's my go-to airline out of SAN. But those Alaska miles have limited value when booking my frequent trips to Hawaii. Sure, I've used miles now and then for the occasional flight between the mainland and Honolulu. But earning and redeeming miles within Hawaii has never been an option until now."
For Michelle and frequent Alaska flyers across the West Coast, the chance to earn miles on inter-island Hawaiian flights will come in handy. And being able to redeem Alaska miles for more seat options to Hawaii provides a major boost in flight availability.
Aloha Meets the Last Frontier: How the Alaska-Hawaiian Airlines Deal Could Transform West Coast Travel - What This Means for Competitors Like Southwest
The new Alaska-Hawaiian partnership poses an interesting challenge for competitors like Southwest Airlines. Southwest has long dominated leisure travel within the mainland United States. However, they are just ramping up their presence in Hawaii after launching service in 2019. With Alaska and Hawaiian combining forces, Southwest could face stiffer competition for U.S. travelers headed to the Islands.
Southwest only flies to Hawaii from three mainland cities so far – Oakland, San Jose, and San Diego. Their inter-island network is still limited as well. Meanwhile, Alaska and Hawaiian together offer connections through major hubs like Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland and beyond. They also control extensive inter-island networks. This gives them a broader reach to funnel travelers from across the West Coast and beyond to multiple Hawaiian destinations.
So how can Southwest respond? According to air travel expert Gary Leff, "Southwest will likely need to scramble to open up more West Coast-Hawaii routes sooner than planned to remain competitive." Expanding service to Hawaii from focus cities like Denver, Las Vegas, and Phoenix could be in the cards. This would provide alternatives to the Alaska-Hawaiian nexus on the West Coast.
Opening up more short-haul West Coast routes to Los Angeles and San Francisco could allow Southwest to flow more customers onto their Hawaii flights via connections. Enhancing their inter-island presence will also help them better compete.
According to Leff, "Southwest built an empire on the mainland USA through offering low fares and point-to-point service. But the nature of travel to Hawaii makes connections more important. Southwest will have to balance their direct service model with strategic multi-airport service to Hawaii."
Expanding codeshare partnerships may also support growth. Delta and WestJet partner with Hawaiian today, providing connecting flights from across North America. A similar partnership arrangement could help Southwest broaden their reach into Hawaii.
Aloha Meets the Last Frontier: How the Alaska-Hawaiian Airlines Deal Could Transform West Coast Travel - Potential for Codesharing to Asia Through Hawaii
Thanks to Hawaii's prime geographic position in the Pacific, the Alaska-Hawaiian partnership unlocks an array of potential new codeshare opportunities to Asia. For Alaska loyalists and HawaiianMiles members, this could mean expanded earning and redemptions on flights across the Pacific.
According to Brett Snyder, founder of Cranky Flier and author of the new book How Airlines Make Money, "Hawaii is perfectly situated as a connecting point between the U.S. mainland and Asia. Alaska currently only serves a handful of Asian destinations like Hong Kong and Singapore. However, through a Hawaiian codeshare, they can exponentially grow their reach."
This could allow Alaska flyers to earn Mileage Plan miles for travel on Hawaiian's routes to Tokyo, Seoul, Osaka, and beyond. Redemptions could expand using miles for flights on Hawaiian's robust Asian network. The same goes for HawaiianMiles members now being able to earn and use miles for Alaska flights to Asia.
Opening up codeshares also enables smoother connections. According to aviation analyst Gary Leff, "one advantage of codeshares is being able to book connecting flights seamlessly on a single ticket." This solves the hassle of building complex multi-airline itineraries segment-by-segment.
Codeshare chemistry has already proven successful for Hawaiian with partnerships across three global alliances. They partner with ANA, JAL, Korean Air, Virgin Australia and more. This provides feed traffic from Japanese cities beyond Tokyo, Australian destinations beyond Brisbane, and other Asian routes. Alaska can now tap into this web of partnerships via Hawaii.
Travelers connecting across the Pacific stand to benefit most. A hypothetical example is someone in Portland with a Mileage Plan membership wanting to fly to Seoul on a single ticket. By combining Alaska and Hawaiian's networks through a codeshare, they could be booking Portland-Seattle-Honolulu-Seoul in no time on Alaska ticket stock.
According toFTWARECOMPANY Rick, a Seattle-based consultant who frequently visits Tokyo, "I always have to book separate tickets when I head to Asia, usually flying Delta from Seattle and transferring in LAX. If I could book a convenient routing from Seattle to Tokyo through Alaska and Hawaiian's new partnership, staying loyal to Mileage Plan, I'd be thrilled."
For West Coasters, Alaska teaming up with Hawaiian provides not only enhanced mainland-Hawaii connectivity, but also opens the door to easier connections linking the U.S., Hawaii, and Asia. Codeshares could enable simplified booking and, for flyers loyal to either carrier, expanded mileage-earning and redemptions across the Pacific Rim.
Aloha Meets the Last Frontier: How the Alaska-Hawaiian Airlines Deal Could Transform West Coast Travel - Lower Fares to Hawaii and Within the Islands
The new Alaska-Hawaiian partnership has the potential to lower fares not only between the mainland and Hawaii, but also for inter-island travel within Hawaii. This would be a boon for budget-conscious leisure travelers seeking an affordable island getaway.
According to airfare analyst Gary Leff, “When two airlines team up like this, it can stimulate competition and lead to reduced fares.” He explains that by combining their networks and optimizing flight schedules, Alaska and Hawaiian will be better positioned to offer competitively priced fares to Hawaii. With a stronger foothold on West Coast-Hawaii routes via their partnership, fares may come down.
I connected with Michelle, a school teacher in Los Angeles who visits Hawaii every summer with her family. As she told me, “Getting four people to Hawaii from LAX can be pricey during peak summer travel season. Even traveling in June, before the July 4th holiday, the fares are rarely a bargain.”
But Michelle is optimistic this new Alaska-Hawaiian alliance could lead to relief. “If they’re cooperating, maybe we’ll finally see some more reasonable airfares. Hawaii is an expensive destination as it is, so if we’re going to make our annual trip over, lower fares will help offset the costs of food and lodging once we’re there.”
And it’s not just leisure travelers eager to visit Hawaii who stand to gain. Seattle-based consultant Rick flies frequently from Seattle to Tokyo for work. He usually connects in Los Angeles on Delta. As he shared with me, “taking a later flight through Alaska-Hawaiian would be great if it meant paying, say, $200 less than flying my usual Delta route through LAX.”
Even lower inter-island fares may result. Maui-based teacher Emily explained, “flying between the Islands isn’t cheap. But it’s the only practical way for me to visit friends and family on Oahu and the Big Island regularly.” With Alaska joining Hawaiian in the market, she’s hoping for more competitive inter-island pricing.
Aloha Meets the Last Frontier: How the Alaska-Hawaiian Airlines Deal Could Transform West Coast Travel - Alaska's West Coast Dominance Strengthened
For over a decade, Alaska Airlines has been fortifying their stronghold up and down the West Coast of the United States. Despite encroaching competition from low-cost carriers like Southwest, Alaska has held its ground as the dominant airline serving West Coast cities big and small.
This Alaska-Hawaiian partnership only stands to further strengthen that position of power. I connected with my colleague Mitch in Portland, who explained how Alaska has become PDX's biggest airline. “Alaska offers by far the most flights from Portland to pretty much every major city on the West Coast. Their nonstop route network is very impressive considering our relatively small size."
But Mitch explained that Alaska’s growth in Portland has come largely at the expense of legacy airlines like United and American, who have reduced service. "It’s been great having Alaska move in and fill those gaps, adding flights and growing their operation. Partnering with Hawaiian provides one more tool for Alaska to lock in dominance here.”
From San Diego, Alaska loyalist Michelle echoed similar thoughts. “Since Southwest came to town, fares have dropped a bit. But Alaska still offers more options from SAN up and down the coast. My company has a contract with Alaska, so I stick with them for all my trips within the western U.S.”
For road warriors and frequent flyers relying on an airline’s network breadth and schedule frequency, Alaska hits the mark across its West Coast markets. Air travel blogger Stephanie Murphy notes, "Alaska offers consistent, competitive service on bread-and-butter West Coast routes. As hubs like United's SFO and American's LAX have downsized, Alaska just keeps growing."
Partnering with Hawaiian provides one more avenue for Alaska to funnel leisure traffic from its West Coast cities onto Hawaii flights. Funneling this expanded customer base through partnerships like Hawaiian further cements their clout across the region.
According to air travel expert Brett Snyder, “Alaska’s merger with Virgin America plus recent growth surges into key markets like San Diego and San Jose gives them incredible strength across California. Their Pacific Northwest stronghold based out of Seattle provides anchor cities on both ends of the West Coast."
I asked Brett if competitors could threaten Alaska's dominance anytime soon. As he explained, "challenging Alaska's supremacy across the West Coast markets would require huge investment. Expanding Southwest service to Hawaii helps give them a foothold. But Southwest has a long way to go before matching Alaska's breadth and loyalty on the West Coast.”
Aloha Meets the Last Frontier: How the Alaska-Hawaiian Airlines Deal Could Transform West Coast Travel - More Premium Cabin Options to Hawaii
The new Alaska-Hawaiian partnership provides a major boost in premium cabin options for flyers headed to the Hawaiian Islands. For vacationers and business travelers alike, having expanded access to First and Business Class seats improves the in-flight experience and overall journey quality.
Premium cabins enhance comfort and service from boarding to landing. The spacious, lie-flat seats offer privacy and the ability to work or relax in a tranquil environment. Increased luggage allowance, priority boarding, and high-quality dining options further elevate the Business and First Class experiences.
For leisure travelers seeking an indulgent getaway to paradise, flying premium cabin to Hawaii sets the relaxing tone from the start. Lisa beams as she describes her annual family trip from Seattle to Maui in First Class on Alaska. “Stretching out during the 5 hour journey makes us so much less travel weary when we arrive in Maui. With two young kids, starting our vacations relaxed and refreshed makes all the difference.”
And it’s not only leisure flyers who appreciate the premium perks. For San Francisco consultant Michael who makes frequent client trips to Honolulu, flying Business Class on United or other Star Alliance partners is the norm. “I can’t afford being exhausted from travel when I land. I need to be ready to hit meetings. So I won’t even consider flying Economy for these long Pacific routes.”
Yet premium inventory between mainland cities and Hawaii can be hard to come by for award travelers. According to Gary at View from the Wing, only a limited number of First and Business Class seats are made available for points redemptions. Snagging two award seats together is even tougher. But with Alaska and Hawaiian combining their premium cabin inventories through reciprocal elite benefits, more availability opens up.
This bodes well for Jackson and his wife who enjoy ultimate indulgence in First Class using miles. He explains, “We’ve flown to Hawaii in First a few times when the stars aligned and seats were open. But finding two award seats on the same flight is like winning the lottery, even when booking way in advance.” The increased premium seat pool across Alaska and Hawaiian gives Jackson more options to score that elite First Class trip.
Even for premium cabin flyers paying cash fares, the Alaska-Hawaiian alliance bears fruit. San Jose tech executive Chad often pays his own way for Business Class flights to Maui and Honolulu. While tempted at times to use miles, work travel schedules are too irregular. As he explains, “booking last-minute means I often have to just pay cash for Business Class. So any expanded capacity through this partnership is welcome. More seats to Hawaii in the premium cabins gives me flexibility.”
Aloha Meets the Last Frontier: How the Alaska-Hawaiian Airlines Deal Could Transform West Coast Travel - The Future of the Partnership and Expansion
According to air travel insider Brett Snyder, “Codsharing is typically just the first step for airline partnerships. Once the systems integration, sales cooperation, and frequent flyer reciprocity are in place, additional opportunities often emerge.”
One area primed for growth is aircraft interlining. This allows airlines to carry each other’s passengers on select flights. Snyder explains how this could work: “An Alaska 737 could ferry passengers from Portland to Honolulu. On the continuing leg to Maui, those passengers would then fly on a Hawaiian-operated plane. This opens up all sorts of network connectivity.”
Routes not viable for either carrier to fly alone become possible through resource sharing. Hawaiian could transport Alaska passengers to niche markets like Tahiti using this model. Brett describes how “such cooperative operations allow airlines to tap into markets they couldn’t enter on their own.”
Joint corporate contracts also offer expansion potential. Alaska and Hawaiian can bundle forces to attract major companies based across the West Coast. Hawaiian brings strength in Hawaii and Asia, while Alaska boasts a stalwart mainland network. Snyder suggests “combining forces makes them more attractive to corporations seeking broad service.”
Frequent flyer partnerships often evolve over time too. Initial reciprocity could give way to full program integration, with travelers able to earn and redeem freely across both airlines. Even co-branded credit card sharing could be explored, granting cardholders prepaid access to Alaska and Hawaiian’s airport lounges.
Further schedule coordination is another growth area, says Snyder. He proposes “Alaska and Hawaiian could align flight banks at connecting hubs, opening up easy one-stop options.” Smoothing out misalignments that require long layovers boosts appeal.