Shane Nelson
Shane Nelson

InsightTwo years after first publicizing its intent to enter the Hawaii market, low-cost carrier Allegiant Air firmed up its commitment to the Aloha State last week, announcing plans to begin nonstop service to Honolulu from Fresno, Calif., and Las Vegas this summer.

The airline will begin flying three times a week from Las Vegas to Honolulu June 29 and offer service once a week from Fresno to Honolulu starting June 30.

“Air access is vital to the health of the state, and any new carrier is a great announcement,” said Angela Vento, regional director of sales and marketing for Starwood Hotels & Resorts Hawaii. “But what makes the Allegiant service even more welcome is that it’s a low-cost carrier in the marketplace, and we’ve had an absence of that since really in 2008.”

ATA was the last low-fare airline to serve the Hawaiian Islands before folding in the spring of 2008, only weeks after the demise of Aloha Airlines.

“We welcome it with open arms,” Barry Wallace, executive vice president for hospitality services at Outrigger Hotels & Resorts, said of Allegiant’s new service. “It seems like every airline has a pretty large base of loyal customers they contact regularly, market to and are trusted by, and this is now a whole new source of customers who might now consider Hawaii that might not have thought of it before.”

Allegiant announced its plan to acquire six 220-passenger Boeing 757-200 aircraft, primarily for use on flights to Hawaii, in March 2010. The carrier is currently operating one of those planes and expects to have a total of three ready by the end of June. According to Brian Davis, director of communication for Allegiant, the other three should be flying by the end of 2012, enabling the carrier to potentially launch additional service to Hawaii from other U.S. mainland cities later this year.

“We certainly have room to expand beyond just the schedule that is selling right now,” he said. “And we believe that’s exactly what we’ll do.”

Allegiant has already partnered with both Starwood and Outrigger, along with other major Oahu hoteliers like Hyatt, Hilton, Aston and Aqua, to offer a range of flight-plus-hotel packages that offer travel agents a 10% commission.

“I’ll certainly take a look at them,” said Paula Simpson Takamori, owner of the Oahu-based agency Travel to Paradise. “I’m always open to new options that make it easier for people to get here from wherever they live. …And anything that brings more lift into Hawaii has got to be good because it’s very busy these days. The volume of people coming has definitely increased.”

While many in the destination’s tourism industry are upbeat about Allegiant’s entrance into the market, the verdict is still out about how the low-cost carrier’s reduced price points may affect airfares to Hawaii overall.

“Because they are going into secondary cities and not the major hubs, I don’t think that there is going to be a lot of impact,” said David Uchiyama, vice president for brand management at the Hawaii Tourism Authority. “I think there may be some out of certain regions, but it’s really too early to tell.”

Allegiant is offering introductory one-way fares for as low as $174 on both of its Honolulu routes. Tickets must be purchased by April 30 for travel through Nov. 13.

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