Thursday, April 7, 2011

Finding the Best Deals To & From Hawaii

The beach at Waikiki and Diamond Head (image credit: BBQMonster)
Living in Hawaii all my life, I'm always looking for ways to find the best fares to leave for a vacation. But the expensive airfares are the same no matter if you're leaving or coming to Hawaii. So USA Today reported on finding the best deals to Hawaii. By considering this information for visitors to Hawaii, residents of the Aloha State will likely find deals to destinations elsewhere.

When to go? One of the busiest times for flights to Hawaii (thus the most costly) is during the cold weather months on the mainland, so look for discounted fares in the spring and fall. Don't hold your breath for summer deals, especially not this year with oil price trends and folks holding a little extra cash in their travel budget.

How good are the deals? With fuel surcharges plus taxes and fees running as much as $500 (or more on flights to Europe, Hawaii is a relative steal if you look purely at the distance of flights. Plus, in many cases, airfare to the islands is cheaper than prices you'll find to many popular Caribbean destinations.

Pool at the Hilton Hawaiian Village (image credit: BBQMonster)
When should I start shopping? Remember that "buying" airfare is different from "shopping." Shopping means you're kicking the tires and starting early to get an overall feel for the trend in prices. The key is being FLEXIBLE enough to be able to move on a sale and ding that credit card when a deal comes along. This is why I always recommend travelers sign up for real-time price-drop airfare alerts.

There are rarely any last-minute deals to Hawaii; however, you can sometimes pick up award seats at the last minute even if you tried redeeming those miles 11 months ago with no luck. Since award tickets are based on airline capacity, your preferred carrier may release more seats for miles redemption as they get a better handle on how their bookings are going.

When should I buy? The best time to shop for domestic flights is Tuesday 3pm eastern.

Why can I be that specific? We recently conducted a three-year study that showed most airlines file a sale fare on a Monday evening, when then prompts other carriers to scramble to match those sale prices. That process is typically completed as of Tuesday, and all those newly discounted seats then hit the airline reservation systems at 3pm eastern.

In general, you should start shopping about 3 months before your departure. The only exception is when it comes to holiday travel with fares at a premium around Thanksgiving and Christmas, it can really pay to shop year round (fun fact: most airlines tickets can be sold up to eleven months in advance).

Hawaiian Airlines flight map

What else should I know about air travel to Hawaii? It can pay to fly from California: There are about 500,000 airline seats flown to Hawaii each month from the mainland, with nearly half of them originating in two cities -- Los Angeles and San Francisco. There are only 20 cities total (outside of Hawaiian destinations) with nonstop flights to the islands.

Most popular airlines: Chances are you'll fly United or Hawaiian Airlines to Hawaii -- these two carriers account for almost half the seats flown to the islands.

Non-U.S. travel to Hawaii: Two-thirds of Hawaii travel originates in the U.S. The other third has been dominated by Japan, but expect that percentage to change in light of the ongoing post-quake/tsunami turmoil.

Inter-island flights: There are enough seats flown between the islands each day to accommodate every single passenger that lands that day. Some locals (and tourists) have come to think of Hawaiian Airlines as something of the Greyhound Bus-like service, offering 30 minute flights from island to island; their domination of the market was solidified by the bankruptcy of Aloha Airlines.

USA Today report by Fare Compare CEO Rick Seaney is an airline industry insider and top media air travel resource.

(image credit: Hawaiian Airlines)


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