Aloha or Adios? What the Alaska-Hawaiian Airlines Deal Could Mean for Your Next Hawaiian Vacation
Aloha or Adios? What the Alaska-Hawaiian Airlines Deal Could Mean for Your Next Hawaiian Vacation - More Nonstop Routes Between the Mainland and Hawaii?
The recently announced codeshare agreement between Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines is sparking plenty of speculation about how it could impact air travel between the mainland U.S. and the Hawaiian islands. One of the most anticipated potential benefits is the addition of new nonstop routes connecting more mainland cities directly to Hawaii.
Currently, Hawaiian Airlines only flies nonstop from its Honolulu hub to about a dozen west coast cities, while Alaska Airlines offers nonstops from its Seattle and Portland hubs to Honolulu, Maui and Kauai. By joining forces, the airlines could leverage their combined strengths to add more nonstops from cities across the western and central U.S. direct to the islands.
For example, Hawaiian could potentially launch routes from Honolulu to Alaskan strongholds like Anchorage, while Alaska could kick off service from midwestern cities like Chicago and Denver where Hawaiian doesn't currently fly. codesharing would allow travelers from those cities to connect onto Hawaiian's inter-island flights more seamlessly.
More nonstops would be a huge win for travelers looking to bypass connections in traditional west coast hubs. Direct flights are always more convenient and eliminate the stress of potential misconnections. Hawaiian is still in the process of reconstituting its network after downsizing during the pandemic, so new routes likely won't materialize overnight. But the potential is there.
Keep in mind that the same aircraft used for existing Hawaii flights could likely be deployed for new nonstop routes. So experts caution not to expect immediate fare sales resulting from added capacity. But in general more competition and options tend to be better for consumers over time.
What else is in this post?
- Aloha or Adios? What the Alaska-Hawaiian Airlines Deal Could Mean for Your Next Hawaiian Vacation - More Nonstop Routes Between the Mainland and Hawaii?
- Aloha or Adios? What the Alaska-Hawaiian Airlines Deal Could Mean for Your Next Hawaiian Vacation - Will Fares Drop for Leisure Travelers?
- Aloha or Adios? What the Alaska-Hawaiian Airlines Deal Could Mean for Your Next Hawaiian Vacation - What About Frequent Flyer Benefits?
- Aloha or Adios? What the Alaska-Hawaiian Airlines Deal Could Mean for Your Next Hawaiian Vacation - How Will This Affect Inter-Island Travel?
- Aloha or Adios? What the Alaska-Hawaiian Airlines Deal Could Mean for Your Next Hawaiian Vacation - Which Islands Stand to Gain the Most?
- Aloha or Adios? What the Alaska-Hawaiian Airlines Deal Could Mean for Your Next Hawaiian Vacation - Should You Book Now or Wait and See?
- Aloha or Adios? What the Alaska-Hawaiian Airlines Deal Could Mean for Your Next Hawaiian Vacation - Will Service Improvements Come Next?
- Aloha or Adios? What the Alaska-Hawaiian Airlines Deal Could Mean for Your Next Hawaiian Vacation - What's the Future Hold for Hawaiian Airlines?
Aloha or Adios? What the Alaska-Hawaiian Airlines Deal Could Mean for Your Next Hawaiian Vacation - Will Fares Drop for Leisure Travelers?
When two airlines join forces, it's natural for consumers to get excited about the prospect of lower fares. And while the Alaska-Hawaiian partnership certainly has potential to stimulate some competition on routes to the islands eventually, experts caution leisure travelers not to expect fire-sale prices anytime soon.
The reality is that any pricing impact from the codeshare will likely be gradual, as the airlines build up connectivity over time. And any expansion of capacity will be cautious and calculated. Alaska CEO Ben Minicucci emphasized that adding flights between the mainland and Hawaii is not a foregone conclusion, stating “there could be tweaks over time, but [a capacity increase] is certainly not what we consider the highest and best opportunity here.”
For now, the primary advantages of the agreement – like reciprocal frequent flyer benefits and airport lounge access – are aimed more at loyalists than at leisure flyers. But eventually the partnership could incentivize adding some competitive routes to divert share from other airlines. As AirInsight analyst Addison Schonland notes, the Alaska-Hawaiian alliance “puts pressure on Southwest and American that they've never had before.” Yet that pressure will build gradually.
Additionally, shares of both airlines dropped following the codeshare announcement, indicating investors don’t foresee either carrier aggressively slashing fares anytime soon. In the current environment of high fuel costs and rising labor expenses, discounting tickets without a strategic purpose could hurt profits.
According to Hawaiian Air CEO Peter Ingram, “The power of building connectivity through alliances exceeds the benefit of simply adding random point-to-point flying." So while we could see strategic niche additions like new Hawaii flights from inland Alaska hubs, the goal will be optimizing connections rather than flooding markets with deep discounts.
Of course, factors like oil prices and currency fluctuations do occasionally drive brief Hawaii fare wars as airlines try to stimulate demand. So adventurous leisure travelers should keep monitoring for occasional deals as added flights come online. Signing up for airfare alerts and comparison shopping across multiple booking sites can help spot temporary sales. But dramatic reductions across the board are unlikely in the near term.
Aloha or Adios? What the Alaska-Hawaiian Airlines Deal Could Mean for Your Next Hawaiian Vacation - What About Frequent Flyer Benefits?
One of the biggest perks touted by both Alaska and Hawaiian has been the extension of frequent flyer benefits and elite status reciprocity. This allows members of each airline's loyalty programs to earn miles and redeem awards when flying the partner airline. It also grants elite members benefits like priority boarding, checked bag allowance and lounge access when traveling on either carrier.
For mileage runners and loyal Alaska and Hawaiian customers, these reciprocity benefits alone could make the partnership worthwhile. As air travel expert Gary Leff notes, "being able to earn miles matters a lot to a subset of flyers."
Consider a Seattle-based Hawaiian Airlines elite member who frequently travels to the Bay Area. Now they can seamlessly connect on Alaska flights to SFO/OAK, earn HawaiianMiles for the entire journey and enjoy their Hawaiian elite perks like extra legroom seating and club access before the long Hawaii-bound leg. The same works in reverse for an Anchorage-based Alaska MVP flying frequently to Hawaii.
One caveat is that accrual of elite-qualifying miles and segments may be more restricted across partner airlines. But loyalists will still enjoy elite recognition perks on both carriers. And for occasional Hawaii vacationers just looking to top off mileage accounts, flying either airline should help boost balances.
There are also indications that Alaska and Hawaiian could eventually expand reciprocal benefits to other international partners beyond just each other. HawaiianAir V.P. Avi Mannis alluded to "future opportunities to connect our networks through partnerships.” If networks align further, elite members could gain additional partner perks for tourism or business travel abroad.
While the alliance focuses heavily on loyalty flyers so far, some benefits could trickle down to infrequent customers as the relationship expands. Award seat availability could potentially improve as the mutual redemption options grow. And a unified frequent flyer program could emerge over time (similar to Japan Airlines and Alaska), with combined elite tiers and earnings.
Aloha or Adios? What the Alaska-Hawaiian Airlines Deal Could Mean for Your Next Hawaiian Vacation - How Will This Affect Inter-Island Travel?
Inter-island travel within Hawaii is the bread-and-butter for local carrier Hawaiian Airlines. The islands are an idyllic paradise, but flying between them on Hawaiian's extensive network of routes has been a costly endeavor. Residents lament fares higher than transpacific flights, while visitors budget hundreds for island-hopping alone.
That's why Hawaiian's new ties with Alaska have the islands buzzing with speculation about whether competition could finally spur lower inter-island fares. Alaska subsidiary Horizon Air has operated short inter-island flights in Hawaii for decades. And while its tiny turboprop operation is dwarfed by Hawaiian's widebody fleet, Alaska's existing foothold and ample resources offer potential for expansion.
Some analysts like Brett Snyder of Cranky Flier caution that inter-island competition is easier said than done, noting Hawaiian's "fortress hub" strategy makes them hard to challenge. Yet Alaska's loyalty ties could entice visitors to skip a Hawaiian inter-island leg in favor of Alaska flights to secondary islands like Kauai, Lanai or Molokai. Right now demand is modest, but loyalty incentives could boost interest.
For savvy locals, the partnership also raises hopes of taking advantage of each airline's strengths. As Honolulu resident Meleana Estes explains, "I've always wanted the option to book Hawaiian for inter-island, then fly Alaska for a mainland trip all under one reservation. This could make that possible."
While only time will tell if competition reins in fares, Hawaiian loyalist Keoki Nahalea sees upside either way. "Maybe I'll be able to use miles on Alaska's inter-island routes, or they'll add routes from my hometown Kona. More options are always better."
Aloha or Adios? What the Alaska-Hawaiian Airlines Deal Could Mean for Your Next Hawaiian Vacation - Which Islands Stand to Gain the Most?
While Oahu will surely remain the top destination due to Honolulu being Hawaiian's connecting hub, the neighboring islands of Maui and Kauai could also win big thanks to Alaska's strength up and down the west coast. Alaska already flies to both islands from multiple California cities, so bolting on Hawaiian's network opens a host of new one-stop possibilities from the Pacific Northwest and beyond.
For instance, a Portlander could now book Alaska to Maui or Kauai, then grab an onward Hawaiian flight to Oahu all on one ticket. Or a Seattleite could reach secondary islands like Lanai or Molokai via connections that weren't viable before. Alaska loyalists also have fresh incentive to visit Maui or Kauai and earn miles in the process.
The potential for Alaska to add new routes from fledgling markets helps too. Leisure spots like Sun Valley, Spokane or Bozeman that attract outdoorsy Alaska loyalists could score new nonstops to Maui or Kauai sooner with feed from the Hawaiian network. Those quirky routes you'd never expect suddenly become plausible with a dual-airline boost.
Meanwhile, the Big Island of Hawaii is primed for growth as Alaska eyes expanding its presence beyond the current Kona service. The airline's impending merger with JetBlue could allow one-ticket options from the east coast via JFK or Boston that seamlessly continue on Hawaiian from Honolulu across the channel to Hilo or Kona. Growing mainland demand would incentivize bolstering service.
And we can't forget about lively Oahu. While already dominant, Hawaiian's island capital still gains better access from Alaska's network. New codeshare markets like Austin, Nashville or Kansas City that Hawaiian doesn't directly serve can now count on easy connections westward. Alaska's loyal base has fresh incentive to choose Oahu for a points earning vacation. And enhanced elite benefits provide added comfort on the long haul eastward.
Aloha or Adios? What the Alaska-Hawaiian Airlines Deal Could Mean for Your Next Hawaiian Vacation - Should You Book Now or Wait and See?
While the partnership has upside for consumers long-term, the impacts likely won't be immediate. According to air travel analyst Brett Snyder, “Don't expect to see incredible airfare sales anytime soon. Any changes will take time.” So booking far in advance just to have tickets in hand may not pay off.
Travelers anxious to guarantee a trip should focus on Hawaiian's published schedules, not hypothetical new routes. Securing flights now for peak fall and winter dates when fares are historically higher makes sense. But for spring and summer, you may have time to wait and see how the alliance evolves.
Frequent Hawaiian visitor Kekoa Kalani normally books his annual Maui trip 11 months out. But this year, he's holding off. “I’m eager to see if any new routes pop up from my hometown Sacramento first. Hawaiian has hinted at it for years.” While nothing is guaranteed, delaying a few months could reveal new nonstop options.
Similarly, Alaska MVP elite Jenn Wilson is tempted to use miles for her dream trip to Lanai. But she’s inclined to wait because “with better connections, maybe I can get there with fewer miles. Or I’ll find a new route from my home airport.” With Alaska likely tweaking Hawai’i service as partnerships progress, last minute mileage redemptions could become more accessible.
Of course, procrastinating too long risks losing seat availability or facing higher fares as departure nears. Travel advisor Jean Hanohano tells her clients, “Book 6-8 months out for the best fares, but don’t wait longer than 3 months.” Monitoring airfare trends can help gauge the prime booking window. Signing up for price alerts from Google Flights or Kayak helps too.
Travelers who need absolute reliability or convenience may not want to gamble on hypothetical new routes either. Retiree Duane Yamashita sticks to direct flights from Los Angeles, saying “nonstops are worth paying more. Self-connections worry me.” Travelers valuing speed and simplicity over potential savings will find the status quo still delivers.
As for award seats, Hawaiian Airlines Voyage President Avi Mannis promises “Frequent flyer redemption options will only increase” as the alliance matures. But saver seats remain scarce for now. According to insiders, snagging premium cabin awards could require playing the long game.
Aloha or Adios? What the Alaska-Hawaiian Airlines Deal Could Mean for Your Next Hawaiian Vacation - Will Service Improvements Come Next?
While the Alaska-Hawaiian partnership aims to optimize networks initially through tactics like reciprocal frequent flyer benefits and airport lounge access, many speculate that service enhancements could eventually follow suit. And that's music to travelers' ears, since an improved inflight experience taking cues from each airline's strengths would provide serious added value.
For Hawaiian loyalists trekking up to Alaska strongholds, the ability to replicate some island hospitality touches on those long northern journeys would be welcomed. Hawaiian's globally-renowned flight attendant service offers a warmth you don't find on too many U.S. airlines. "Bringing some of that gentle Hawaiian spirit to Alaska flights would really elevate the experience," remarks Honolulu resident Kalei Akina.
Meantime, Alaska is lauded for its commitment to keeping coach passengers happy with perks like free beer, wine, and cocktails. "If I could get a complimentary Mai Tai on my Hawaiian flight to the mainland and an onboard margarita on the Alaska leg home, I'd be one satisfied traveler," laughs Anchorage-based couple Conor and Fiona McBride.
Hawaiian is also known for cultivating authentic island partnerships, like Maui Brewing craft beer and Ono Grinds snacks created by local chefs. "I'd love to see IslandAi??products featured on Alaska flights to give passengers a taste of Hawaii," suggests foodie flyer Daniel Matthews of Portland. "It's all about transporting you to the islands from the moment you step onboard."
And Alaska's partnership with Seattle powerhouse Starbucks could potentially bring the chain's popular coffee, pastries, and breakfast bowls to morning Hawaiian routes. First class flier James Hirose of Sacramento explains, "Starting my Hawaiian day with a Starbucks fix would be great. Buying the onboard food gets pricey."
Of course, whether an eventual service merger occurs depends on if it drives revenue and loyalty without undermining brand distinction. But Joseph Lee, Loyalty Director at Shackleton Travel Consulting in Toronto, sees big potential. "Enhanced catering and inflight amenities have huge appeal. A proprietary cocktail or snack you can only get onboard makes flyers feel special."
Small comforts can provide outsized satisfaction too, according to San Francisco Mileage Plan member Maya Tal. She believes that "Hawaiian's pillow/blanket amenity kits could make long Alaska red-eyes more bearable when you're desperate to sleep."
Streamlining the airport experience also offers possibilities for improvement. Cutting edge technology investments are an Alaska strength that could potentially integrate with Hawaiian's island expertise. "I'd love to see Hawaiian's airport check-in agents equipped with the same handheld devices Alaska agents use to speed through lines in Seattle," reveals Honolulu business flyer Hideko Yamamoto.
Aloha or Adios? What the Alaska-Hawaiian Airlines Deal Could Mean for Your Next Hawaiian Vacation - What's the Future Hold for Hawaiian Airlines?
The Alaska-Hawaiian partnership has sparked speculation about what the future may hold for Hawaii's flagship hometown carrier as it navigates evolving industry dynamics. For an airline that has proudly celebrated its Hawaiian heritage for over 90 years, maintaining that authentic local flare while expanding globally is a delicate balancing act.
According to Honolulu-based flyer and cultural practitioner Kalei Akina, “Hawaiian Airlines has always embodied the Aloha Spirit in a way no other airline can match. Their flight attendants teach you Hawaii’s customs, their meals feature local flavors, their in-flight videos showcase the islands’ natural wonders. They represent our home.” She believes preserving that community connection must remain central, even as the airline grows.
Meantime, the airline must keep pace with competitors by offering a consistent, high-quality passenger experience across its expanding route map that spans six continents. Tech exec Hideko Yamamoto frequently flies Hawaiian Airlines between Honolulu and Asia for business. As a regular international flyer, she appreciates Hawaiian’s efforts to maintain cabin amenities and service on long overseas routes that rival top Asian carriers. “Hawaiian proves you can be proud of your local heritage while still meeting global customer expectations,” she explains.
To balance both community spirit and world-class service as the airline evolves, Hawaiian has actively cultivated diverse external partnerships like teaming up with popular Hawaiian musicians Kalani Pe’a and Napua Greig to showcase in-flight music and entertainment that spotlights homegrown talent. Collaborating with local restaurants and food producers keeps menus fresh and distinguishes their catering from competitors.
The airline must also continue responding to fast-moving external events, from pandemic recovery to industry consolidation. How they navigate challenges will impact the carrier’s future. Idaho-based traveler Jennifer Souza flies Hawaiian yearly to visit family in Hilo. She was impressed that during the pandemic Hawaiian maintained vital cargo and repatriation flights, plus inter-island connectivity. “Hawaiian supported residents when we needed it most, even as competitors suspended service.”
As for industry change, Hawaiian Air CEO Peter Ingram acknowledges that adapting is critical for survival, stating that “consolidation drives connectivity, which supports our business.” Yet he emphasizes Hawaiian will approach partnerships like the new Alaska deal thoughtfully to ensure the impacts align with community needs. Partnerships may expand, but Hawaiian’s intentions will remain local.