The Tactical Traveler

An Old-Fashioned Inter-Island Fare War
A new carrier is planning to invade Hawaii's inter-island market and that has ignited a good, old-fashioned fare war on flights between the state's major airports. Prices have plunged to as low as $39 one-way thanks to go!, which hopes to launch service in June using 50-seat regional jets (RJ). Aloha and Hawaiian have matched the start-up carrier's introductory prices. The $39 fares must be purchased by next Friday (April 7) for travel between the go! launch date of June 9 and September 30, but no one doubts that the price war will continue for months. Once a staple of the Hawaiian landscape, fare wars have largely disappeared in recent years. The result: walk-up fares that top $170 one-way for flights that rarely exceed 200 miles. And while few visitors or business travelers pay those inflated rates, the average fares have skyrocketed as both Aloha and Hawaiian phased out the pre-paid inter-island coupon books that used to get you a walk-up seat for about $60 one-way.

Aloha Will 'Probably' Restore Inter-Island First Class
Aloha Airlines created the concept of first-class service on inter-island flights in the mid-1980s, but it made the controversial decision to eliminate the cabin in 2004. The move hurt Aloha with local business travelers, who defected in large numbers to Hawaiian, which has kept its first-class section. Both carriers eventually declared and exited bankruptcy and now Aloha says first-class cabins on inter-island flights are likely to return. "We probably are" going to restore first class, says Aloha chief executive David Banmiller. "We're running some numbers now," he told me this week. Almost no one pays to fly first class on the short flights between the islands, of course, but upgrades are considered a valuable perk to the state's inter-island frequent flyers. They often commute daily by plane to and from various islands.

Hilo Finally Gets a Flight From the Mainland
Hilo International on the Big Island of Hawaii hasn't had an international flight for a long, long time. In fact, it's been years since the airport that serves the state's second-largest city has even had a flight from the U.S. mainland. But that changes on April 27 when ATA Airlines launches a daily service from Oakland. The flight departs at 7:35 p.m., which means there's plenty of time for travelers from around the nation to connect to the ATA service. Hawaiian Airlines is launching a bank of late-evening flights to and from the state's islands. Effective June 9, the carrier has scheduled a flight from Honolulu to Lihue at 8 p.m.; the last Lihue-Honolulu flight will depart at 9:05 p.m. An 8 p.m. Honolulu-Kahului departure has been added, with a return from Kahului at 9:10 p.m. Hawaiian's last Honolulu-Kona flight will be at 7:45 p.m. with a return from Kona at 8:58 p.m. A late flight will also be added at Hilo on June 30. The flight from Honolulu will depart at 7:25 p.m. The return from Hilo will depart at 8:43 p.m.

A Great Idea Resurfaces in Waikiki
About 20 years ago, airlines and hotels in major gateway cities began offering lobby-level airline check-in desks that processed tickets, completed seat assignments and accepted checked luggage. All passengers had to do was get to the airport and get on their flight. Most of those arrangements disappeared long ago, but Hawaiian Airlines has revived the service at four Ohana and Outrigger hotels in Waikiki. Launched several months ago, the service allows travelers to check in and drop luggage for any Hawaiian inter-island or mainland flight. Unlike the old days, when the remote check-in services were free, the Hawaiian-Outrigger arrangement carries a charge, but an extremely reasonable one: $5 a bag or just $15 for a family of four. "Hawaiian came to us and it was exactly the kind of service that we thought would improve the guest experience," says Rob Solomon, Outrigger's senior vice president of sales and marketing. "And it's exceeding their expectations." Best of all, the remote check-in service is available to any traveler, not just guests of the four hotels: the Outrigger Waikiki, the Outrigger Reef, the Ohana East and the Ohana Maile Sky Court.

Southwest's Stealth Entry Into the Hawaii Market
When ATA Airlines exited bankruptcy last month, it was with substantial managerial and financial assistance from Southwest Airlines. And Southwest has extracted a price: ATA isn't so much a code-share partner as a vassal carrier, flying where Southwest itself chooses not to go. One of those places is Hawaii. So to accommodate Southwest, ATA is putting Southwest's codes on its Hawaii flights and moving the service from San Francisco to Oakland, where Southwest is the dominant carrier. Effective April 27, ATA will operate a daily flights to Maui and twice-daily service to Honolulu. It will also launch the aforementioned Oakland-Hilo route that day. But that's not all. The next day, ATA launches a daily flight to Honolulu from Ontario, California. Ontario serves Southern California's Inland Empire and it's another airport that just happens to be dominated by Southwest Airlines.

Hawaii News You Need to Know
Island Air, the commuter carrier once owned by Aloha Airlines, is adding two new routes: Kahului-Lanai flights begin on Sunday and Lihue-Kapalua/West Maui flights launch on June 1. A huge remake of Lewers Street, one of Waikiki's most important thoroughfares, is underway. The eight-acre project, dubbed Waikiki Beachwalk, will include four restaurants, 40 shops and Honolulu's first Embassy Suites hotel. Hilton Hotels is expected to announce its return to Kauai later this year when it puts its flag on an existing property there.

Honolulu's Segue to the Future
My standard advice about getting around Waikiki is: Never rent a car. Why? Almost everyone driving there is a distracted visitor in an unfamiliar rented car navigating unfamiliar streets with odd, unfamiliar Hawaiian names. In other words, chaos. But here's a wonderful solution: the Segway. A company called Segway of Hawaii offers rentals of the revolutionary personal-transportation device from a convenient shop located in the Hilton Hawaiian Village resort. Besides a tour of Waikiki, the company also offers carefully crafted itineraries that cover Diamond Head; parks, culture and beaches; and Honolulu's under-appreciated downtown district. Segway of Hawaii will also custom-design a tour to your specifications. Prices start at just $49 a person.

Copyright 1993-2006 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.