Agents Hope Southwest Will Add Inter-Island Flights in Hawaii as Island Air Closes

Island Air
Photo courtesy of Island Air

Travel Agent recently chatted with some Hawaiian specialists about the impact Island Air's closing of operations will have on the market.

The consensus?

Most advisors are hoping Southwest Airlines adds some inter-island flights to keep Hawaiian Airlines from having full market share of regional flights in Hawaii.

“Hawaiian Airlines had more code share agreements from the mainland so I think overall Hawaiian Airlines will gain from this,” says Katie Rahr Kapel, owner of Mode Travel Agency, Inc., which is based in Fargo, ND., “but they need some competition in the market to keep fares competitive, so hopefully Southwest will pick up these flights.”

And Lena Brown of Largay Travel in Waterbury, CT., agrees.

“Hawaiian Airlines having full market share of inter-island flights would not be favorable for Hawaii visitors,” says Brown. “Nothing would deter them from raising prices.”

Last month, Southwest Airlines announced plans to begin selling tickets in 2018 for service to Hawaii. The carrier also announced its intention to launch an application process for Federal Aviation Administration authorization for Extended Operations (ETOPS). Service details are expected to be announced at a later date, according to a statement issued by the airline.

Hawaii Island Air, Inc., commonly referred to as Island Air, announced earlier this week that it will be closing operations for good as the carrier’s last flight was scheduled to take off this past Saturday, November 11.

As a result of this announcement, all Island Air passengers must now make alternative arrangements for inter-island transportation, according to a written statement released by the company. 

Earlier this month, Island Air issued a statement announcing it was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection “in an effort to continue normal operations while navigating through legal challenges recently presented by the lessors of its aircraft.”

“Hawaiian is the big winner here, they have already volunteered to honor Island Air tickets and hope to get most of the Island Air business moving forward,” says Andrey Zakharenko of Always Travel in San Francisco, CA. “Prices on inter-island flights have gone down due to fierce competition and Hawaiian would love for a few more inter-island companies to follow Island Air so they can better control price and improve their bottom line on these hopper flights. Southwest coming to Hawaii will benefit Hawaii tourism and hopefully lower the price for the consumer, although many think that any drop in fares will be temporary. The inter-island space is something that Hawaiian is going to protect from any new competition." 

But with Southwest recently announcing it will embark on a process to obtain approval from the Federal Aviation Administration for Extended Operations (ETOPS), a regulatory requirement to operate between the mainland and the Hawaiian islands, Brown says there's still hope for cheaper airfares to and within Hawaii.

“Since Southwest Airlines announced plans to fly from CA to Hawaii, there is hope that they extend flights throughout the Hawaiian Islands,” says Brown. “Southwest Airlines is known for lower fares. Competition for the routes would benefit all those island-hoppers.”

Visit www.gohawaii.com and keep visiting www.travelagentcentral.com for all your latest travel news. Be sure to follow Travel Agent’s Joe Pike on Twitter @TravelPike and Instagram @pike5260.

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