Stop by the ticketing hall of Honolulu International Airport's Interisland Terminal these days, and you'll see what a split personality looks like, up close.
One side of the terminal is clogged with passengers, many of them waiting in long lines just to use self check-in. These are the Hawaiian Airlines counters. Down the hall, however, the Aloha Airlines desks sit in silence, a few lone, bored security people amble around, making sure nobody disturbs what remains of a once vibrant airline.
Hawaii has always operated a little differently than other American states, with two daily newspapers in its small capital, Honolulu, and two state airlines, Hawaiian and Aloha. But at the end of March, Aloha suddenly went bust, leaving more than 3,000 employees without work.
Why do bad things happen to good airlines?
Crippled, it said, by predatory pricing on the inter-island routes that were its bread and butter, Aloha (currently embroiled in a multi-million dollar lawsuit against Mesa Air Group, parent company of the lowfare, inter-island flyer go!) insisted it could no longer compete, disappearing almost instantly.
The news for Hawaii wasn't good, but it was about to get worse.
On April 2, Indianapolis-based ATA Airlines, which was relied on for key mainland services, utilized both by Hawaiians and mainlanders coming to spend money, disappeared as well.
Whereas many Aloha mainland services were operated by United Airlines -- for instance, nonstops form Los Angeles and Chicago -- together with the loss of ATA, the departures comprise a significant decrease in service, affecting markets such as Oakland, Phoenix and Las Vegas.
The news is certainly good for Hawaiian Airlines, which has been setting records since April 1, flying an unprecedented 718,767 passengers during the month, according to data obtained by Travel Weekly.
According to an airline spokesperson, however, while planes may have appeared to have been more crowded, an uptick in load factor -- that's airline speak for more seats in the sky -- was the key to scooping up extra butts. Hawaiian's Keoni Wagner told the Honolulu Advertiser last week that "the extra capacity we put in the market met demand."
Some of these extra services include a new daily nonstop to California's Oakland International Airport from Honolulu (a busy route for both ATA and Aloha), plus larger planes on interisland routes.
Immediately after the double-header of bad news, The Arizona Republic reported a $300 fare jump on available seats from Phoenix on US Airways, one of two remaining carriers serving the Islands (the other is Hawaiian) from Sky Harbor. The San Francisco Chronicle reported a similar jump from the Bay Area -- $420 for an August roundtrip on ATA vs. $700 on United. A recent check of midsummer, midweek flights show fares starting at $670 RT on Northwest from San Francisco to Honolulu. Even so, on Memorial Day, Airfarewatchdog.com discovered that United slashed fares from both Newark and Houston to Honolulu and Kauai to under $300 including taxes, for travel through April 2009.
Too early to tell
One of the most bitter domestic airline feuds in recent memory is what Aloha blames in part for its downfall. Aloha rival go! is still flying, and, according to parent company Mesa, which usually contracts with other airlines to operate short-haul services on smaller planes, it has almost doubled capacity since the shutdown.
While go!'s arrival on the scene in 2006 -- almost days after Aloha emerged from its last bankruptcy -- did bring the islands closer together, with their $19 fare sales and breezy accessibility (a recent flight will be remembered for having the most cheerful and friendly cabin crew you could ever hope to fly with), it did so at a loss, and to the detriment of Aloha. CEO Jonathan Ornstein famously said that he could fly empty planes and cover it with profits from elsewhere in Mesa's sprawling network.
Ornstein's remarks grated on Hawaiians, many with connections to people working at the competing "hometown" airlines. However, despite insistent claims that go! was an unwanted outsider and "had no Aloha," it continues to fly, now with ever-so-slightly-higher prices. A ticket for May travel from Honolulu to Kona purchased more than 15 days in advance cost $55; the same ticket for June travel was showing for $59 each way.
Take the waters
The strife in the air coincides with the state's troubled waters. Last year's almost-failed effort to give Hawaii its first high-speed ferry service is today just limping along. After launching the Hawaii SuperFerry from Honolulu to the Maui port of Kahului and Kauai's Lihue, protests and other actions led to cancellation of the Kauai service and left the company operating with just one route (Maui-Honolulu) per day.
After unexpected dry dockings and numerous stops and starts on a second Maui service -- not to mention an uncertain timetable for its return to Kauai, the future of the SuperFerry looks murky. The second daily Maui departure has been inaugurated, but a new CEO says the people of Kauai can decide whether or not they want the service. (He probably shouldn't worry about keeping the phone lines free.)
But wait, there's more?
It doesn't take a financial analyst to recognize that Hawaii might still be over served. At least when you look at the Oahu-Maui route. There are now two daily ferry departures, plus dozens of daily flights to Kahului (and even some to tiny Kapalua and Hana) various airlines. People may be flying (or taking the boat), but are they paying enough to keep everyone in the air?
According to the Department of Transportation, Maui's Kahului -- along with three other Hawaiian airports -- featured the lowest average roundtrip fares in the United States last year. It wasn't always this way. In a separate report on the change in average airfare from 1995 to the present, Kahului rings in at the third most changed, from an average round-trip fare in 1995 of $50 to a current fare of $183. But is it enough?
Say it ain't so. No more Silverjet? That's the word from Silverjet CEO Lawrence Hunt, who announced today that Silverjet has suspended operations. Apparently, the Biz Class carrier was unable to stay afloat (aflight?) after investors failed to deliver on funds earlier this month. So what's their next move? "We are working actively with new investors who are prepared to inject new funds so we can recommence operations," says Hunt.
You may recall, Silverjet was the last man standing after the recent fall of similar all-business class models like MaxJet and Eos, operating New York to London routes. Will they get the cash they need in order to survive? Well, it's not exactly the best time to invest in a commercial airline, but who knows.
In the meantime, stranded passengers should visit Silverjet's FAQ page.
Frequent flyer tickets are supposed to be free, right? Well, not exactly. Airlines are socking it to passengers with all kinds of fees.
American in particular is killing customers with fees. Imagine this scenario: you book a frequent flyer ticket at the last minute, then have to change the date of travel, but ultimately can't make the trip (illness, death in the family, whatever): your total fees (assuming you want to redeposit the miles for future use) will be $405 without even leaving the ground! They even charge $5 for booking an award ticket online!
"Last minute" ticketing
Ticket issued by phone or in person
Same day change fee (confirmed travel)
$10 paid online, $20 at airport
51-70 lbs (23-32kgs): $29
71 to 99 lbs: $69
62-70 total linear inches: $29; 71-80 inches $69
Bags 1-3: $50; 4-6: $75; 7th or more: $150
51-100 lbs: $50
63-80 inches: $50; 81-115 inches: $75
Travel ticketed 20 to 7 days prior to departure $50; 6 days to 2 hours prior to departure: $100
$5 online/$20 by phone/$30 in person
$150 (MileSAAver Award tickets for which the only confirmed change is to the date and/or time will not incur the change fee)
Ticketed within 4 to 14 days: $50; 3 days or less: $75 (discounts for upper tier frequent flyers)
$50 (discounts for upper tier frequent flyers)
$50(discounts for upper tier frequent flyers)
$50 (discounts for upper tier frequent flyers)
Travel ticketed 20 days or less: $75
51-100 lbs: $50 ($75 effective June 10, 2008)
63-80 inches: $50 ($75 effective June 10, 2008)
51-70 lbs: $50; 71-99 lbs: $100
63-80 inches: $75
51-70 lbs: $50
63-160 inches: $100
$10 online/$20 at airport
Bags 3-5: $100
51-70 lbs: $25 ($50 June 10, 2008 onward)
71 to 99 lbs: $100
62-79 inches: $100; 80 inches and over: $150
First additional bag: $25; bags 4-9: $50; 10 and more: $110
All last winter, United and Lufthansa conspired to be the low price leaders to Europe by offering some amazing deals, but so far this season they have been acting like meek wallflowers, waiting on the sidelines and ceding the low ground to others. Now the two primary Star Alliance members and favorite tango couple have once again reunited for a repeat performance and seem poised to take a seasonal star turn on the dance floor.
All right, before we all get too excited, you should be aware that some of these sale fares can be as high as jitterbug summersaults and about as easy to pin down as a decent swing partner that won't crush your dainty toes, but at least United makes it a bit easier to see when you can take a spin by putting their dance card online for the whole world to see (you can check out the nifty calendar on United's web site when you're done reading).
Also note that the fares we list from this sale do not include taxes, as is usually our custom, so expect to shell out at least another $100. Such is the high price of admission to Europe's finest ballrooms this summer and we're sorry we can't do better by you. Yes, we have told you about better deals, but they've been pretty hit-and-miss, so if you've been waiting for a decent sale, this could be it. Plus, others might just join the party soon, so it could be a big one!
All you have to do is pick a style that fits your rhythm, then check out the fares on our Amsterdam, Frankfurt, London, Munich, Paris, Rome or Zurich pages, keeping in mind that even if we don't list your hometown, it doesn't mean you can't boogie down. Just put your best foot forward, shimmy on over to United and get your groove on, baby!
OK, here goes... reunited and it feels so good, reunited 'cause we understood... Go ahead, sing it out loud. Do a little dance, too, if you got the bug. We already did!
For sales of this magnitude, with hundreds of routes and several thousand possible travel scenarios, we simply do not have the resources to check or calculate taxes for every single one.
Based on sample checks, we have found these fares to be generally valid, but as we have also warned, they can be very difficult to find, assuming they haven't already sold out.
Needless to say, these rare fares are only useful to someone flexible enough to take advantage of the few dates they may still be available and willing to spend the considerable effort it could take to find them.
Virgin Atlantic has published some really unusual 1-day advance purchase fares for travel to London from most of its US gateways. You must leave tomorrow, Sunday May 25, and return in June. If you were shopping around for a last minute fare to anywhere in Europe (you can connect from London on a cheap fare), this is a great bargain. Use a flexible date search on Travelocity to quickly identify these fares, or just enter May 25 outbound and returns Sun, Thu, Fri, or Sat from June 1-22.
Here's an example from Chicago, but we found the same deal from other gateways:
This definitely is news. A couple of years ago, the DOT told Travelocity not to show fare search results for international fares in their "flexible date" searches, unless they included all taxes and fuel surcharges, or at least clearly stated that they were not included (and that they could add hundreds to the fares Travelocity showed).
Well lo and behold, at least of this writing, Travelocity has re-enabled flexible international search. In our tests, not all international routes are active.
We found the DOT's edict well-intentioned but unfair, especially since ther are so many airfare listing sites that show international fares before the charges, and ESPECIALLY since airlines are allowed to advertise international fares without the surcharges.
The big deal is that only Travelocity offered a full 330 day range in its searches for international fares (Orbitz, Cheaptickets, and so on only do 30 day periods at a time).
As with all Travelocity search results, the fare you see in initial results may not be available at all, or on just a few dates of travel, but it's still a useful place to start searching and we're glad to have it back, if even on just some routes.
Booking online: $7 for domestic tickets (yep, you got that right; they charge the same as Travelocity.com; a very sneaky fee) Booking by phone: $15 Booking in person: $20
Lap children: 10% of the adult fare on international fares Unaccompanied minors: $100 each way
Frequent flyer tickets
(US Airways charges less than many airlines)
Travel ticketed 14 days or less: $50 if done online, $75 using reservations (waived for upper tier frequent flyers) Same day change of flight: $25 Tickets issued in person or by phone: $25 Redepositing miles: $ $50-400
(depending on the number of miles)
Changing travel dates after purchase: $150 for US, Mexico, Canada, and Caribbean ($250 for other international fares) Fare drop refund (fee charged for re-issuing ticket if a fare goes down between the time you buy and the time you fly): $150-$250
Same day confirmed standby on an earlier flight: $ $25 for flights within the 48 contiguous United States and $50 for flights to Latin America, the Caribbean, Canada and Alaska. Flights to Hawaii and Europe excluded, and you may only take an earlier, not a later flight. Unconfirmed same day standby is free.
Iberia has finally decided to make an official sales announcement for the great summer fares from Boston that we started showing you over a month ago (you can read our official announcement here). At one point we listed over 50 destinations in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, but we've had to whittle down the list as seats sold out.
These bargains helped make Boston the leading departure point for cheap transatlantic travel so far this year, but they were always only available for a very limited number of travel days and a bit difficult to find, and the problem with this "new" sale is that Iberia doesn't seem to have made it any easier.
The specified "flights period" (which we take to mean "travel period") runs through the end of July, but after doing a thorough price check for the entire period we could only find seats to Barcelona and Madrid in early June and, as we've been telling you all along, for late July departures with late August returns.
So while these great fares are still available, presumably also to all the other advertised destinations and a few unnamed others, they seem to be harder than ever to pin down, and we'd like to think that this is partly thanks to our promotional efforts for which Iberia has never thanked us, by the way, but we hope at least you appreciate.
Customers who purchase domestic economy class tickets on or after May 12, 2008 but before June 15, 2008 may check one bag for free and check a second bag for $25 each way. But, if you purchase domestic economy class tickets on or after June 15, 2008 you will be charged $15 each way for the first checked bag and $25 each way for the second checked bag.
There are some exceptions:
Customers traveling on an international itinerary to destinations beyond the U.S., the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, or Canada
Customers who purchase full-fare tickets in Economy Class
Customers who purchase Business or First Class tickets
Customers flying on AA codeshare flights not operated by American Airlines, American Eagle or AmericanConnection®
Customers traveling on government or military fares
Military passengers on active duty
AAdvantage Executive Platinum®, AAdvantage Platinum® or AAdvantage Gold® members
oneworld Alliance Emerald, Sapphire or Ruby members
Customers flying on the same reservation as an AAdvantage Executive Platinum, AAdvantage Platinum or AAdvantage Gold member or oneworld Alliance Emerald, Sapphire or Ruby member regardless of frequent flier status or fare type (not applicable to group bookings)
AAnytime® Economy Class AAdvantage award tickets, MileSAAver(SM) or AAnytime First and Business Class AAdvantage award tickets
First and Business Class upgrades confirmed prior to check in
In addition, AA has upped the charge for additional checked bags:
For flights within the United States the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Canada:
$100 per piece for the 3rd, 4th and 5th checked bags
$200 per piece for the 6th checked bag and any additional pieces
And the pet in cabin fee has been increased $20 each way to $100.
So here's not atypical scenario:
You found a $98 RT fare between Chicago and Kansas city on American, and you're bringing Fluffy into the cabin with you and checking two bags. You can now add $280 to your credit card, almost three times the cost of your ticket!