I was born and raised in Hawaii and wouldn’t trade the experience. However, living in paradise comes with a price: travel limitations. If you want to travel between the Hawaiian Islands you basically have two options: you can either travel by plane or if you live on the islands Molokai or Maui you can catch a ferry. This is true for both residents and visitors to the 50th state. To make matters worse, currently only two airlines offer inter-island service. That’s why the long-awaited announcement that a new airline will be offering flights between the Hawaiian Islands is exciting news for locals and visitors alike.
Regional carrier Mesa Air Group’s, new “go!” airlines will start flying between Honolulu and Lihue, Kahului, Hilo and Kailua-Kona on June 9th. Even better news: introductory fares are $39. If you have ever traveled between the Hawaiian Islands you know what an incredible deal this is. For decades, Hawaiian Airlines and Aloha Airlines have monopolized the airspace above the Hawaiian Islands (both have recently restructured and emerged from bankruptcy). Until the mid-1990’s, a one-way ticket on either airline cost about $50 for residents of Hawaii and about $65 for non-residents. Since then, both airlines have standardized their fares (eliminating their “locals only” discounted fares) and currently charge $90 for a one-way ticket.
The rate hike hit residents of Hawaii hard, especially those who do not live on the island of Oahu (home to the city’s capital, major businesses and medical facilities). My parents live on the Big Island of Hawaii and when my mother was diagnosed with cancer she had to travel back and forth from Hilo to Honolulu for medical treatment. My father accompanied her on each trip and in a month’s time they easily spent more than $1000 on airfare alone.
For visitors to the state, many who travel long distances to get there and would like the opportunity to visit more than one island, the inflated prices are a deterrent. For some, spending between $500 and $1000 for a single ticket from the mainland to Hawaii then having to budget another $180 per person to travel to another island is out of the question.
Mesa’s introductory fare of $39 for a one-way ticket has given both residents and visitors a reason to cheer. It has also forced both Aloha and Hawaiian to lower their fares to compete with Mesa. It is hard to say how long this introductory fare will last, or what Mesa’s new “go!” airlines will charge for a round-trip ticket in the months that follow, but for the sake of Hawaii residents and those traveling to the 50th state, I hope the introduction of this new airline will mean the end to over-priced fares. (Well, I can dream, can’t I?)