Posted on: April 16, 2012
Cheap seats to paradise
We're betting that not so many people these days remember airlines like World Airways, Air Hawaii or Pacific East Air.
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If the thought "Who?" just crossed your mind, these are airline names from the previous century, and among other things, they tried to bring cheap seats to the mainland-Hawaii market. We were reminded of them last week when discount airline Allegiant revealed its game plan for serving the Aloha State.
It's been that long since the mainland-Hawaii market was served by an unabashed "cheap seat" specialist, so Allegiant's entry bears watching.
At the end of June, Allegiant will begin putting its recently acquired 757 aircraft into service on routes to Honolulu from Fresno, Calif., and Las Vegas, with introductory fares from $174 one-way, a rate that includes taxes but not baggage fees.
It is possible to get from the Western U.S. to Honolulu and back for less than $500, but you have to work at it. Allegiant's entry into this market should make it a bit easier.
We regard Hawaii as a blessing, but as a destination, for many travelers it's a mixed blessing not within easy reach, a common complaint being, to use the vernacular, "it ain't cheap."
We don't think there's much risk that Hawaii will ever be "cheap," but a dose of low fares might make it a more attractive value than it already is for a broader group of travelers, and that would be good.
Allegiant is not the most agent-friendly airline in the world. Some would say it's not the most consumer-friendly, either. But it has something that the cheap-seat specialists of yesteryear never had: a double-digit operating profit margin.