‘A game of chicken’: Inter-island fare war takes off between Hawaiian, Southwest airlines

Both airlines are advertising one-way fares as low as $39.
Published: Sep. 16, 2022 at 9:18 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 16, 2022 at 10:21 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaiian Airlines and its latest competitor, Southwest, are engaged in an air fare battle, and flyers may be taking advantage.

The lower air fares may be having their intended effect, at least according to travelers at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport.

Many said they considered flying to a neighbor island because of the cheap price.

The latest fare war was triggered by Southwest, which entered the Hawaii market in 2019 — It’s advertising one-way fares as low as $39.

With Hawaiian matching the price, travelers have been quick to take the opportunity. Frequent Canadian visitor Christine Campbell and her family of five decided to fly to Kona for a week because of the low fares.

“I had been watching the inter-island fares and I knew kinda what we would spend,” said Campbell. “And then I saw the news about Southwest, and then I saw the $39 sale, so I jumped on it.”

“Wow, that’s a good deal!” said Kauai resident Dwight Yama, who flew with his wife to Honolulu to visit their grandchildren.

“You know, we should have that all the time, so that’s good that they’re fighting with each other,” he added.

While recent media reports say Southwest is bleeding money in the inter-island market, the Dallas-based carrier has announced plans to add even more flights between the islands.

It also reported record revenue for the second quarter of the year.

“It really is a game of ‘chicken,’ and both airlines — Hawaiian and Southwest — are using the rest of their systems to subsidize this fare war that’s going on because nobody makes money at these $39 fares,” said aviation expert and historian Peter Forman.

Forman said it’s hard to speculate how long Southwest will stay in the the inter-island market, but right now he believes that it’s going to try to force a competitive advantage against Hawaiian.

The situation brings back memories of Go! Airlines, which started a fare war that resulted in the 2008 shutdown of Aloha Airlines after 62 years of service.

“Go! was on a mission to get rid of Aloha, so that was not nice,” recalled Yama.

“People watch what happened with the Go! situation, and that gives Hawaiian an advantage because a lot of people don’t like a big mainland — or even a small mainland company coming in and bumping out one of their local companies,” said Forman.

But for now, Southwest and Hawaiian will duke it out.

“It’s a nice little bonus for us right now,” said Judy Yama. “I know it’s not going to last, so we’ll just take advantage as we can.”