On Monday, Hawaii’s largest carrier began offering a new class of service. No, this isn’t a new premium product. Rather, Hawaiian Airlines launched basic economy fares, which is just a bait-and-switch way of raising prices.
Hawaiian instituting a basic economy fare should come as no surprise to anyone. This has been in the works for some time now, and the Airline is struggling amidst increasing competition. Plus, if they’re the only one not offering it, it puts them at a financial disadvantage (in the eyes of investors). But, no matter how you justify the move, it is always going to be one that’s to the detriment of customers.
Hawaiian’s Basic Economy Fare
Hawaiian calls their basic economy fare “Main Cabin Basic.” And if you’re familiar with the basic economy fares of other airlines like American, Delta, Alaska, and United, then Hawaii’s version won’t be a surprise to you. Like most others, Hawaiian’s version is standard economy service with restrictions like:
- No advance seat selections (select at check-in or assigned at the gate)
- Board last (Group 5)
- Changes and cancellations aren’t allowed, even with a fee
- No paid or Pualani Elite upgrades
- No bonus earnings for Pualani Elite members
It’s worth noting, though, that Main Cabin Basic customers still receive a complimentary meal, and (as far as I can tell) complimentary entertainment. And, yes, you’re still allowed one free carry-on and one personal item.
But, as with all other airlines, Hawaiian touts the fare as a way of saving you money. It’s not, but more on that later. This is especially true for families traveling together and wanting to ensure they’ll sit together. In order to do so, they now have to pay more. So, hopefully, Hawaiian stops touting that as one of their benefits.
Main Cabin Basic is launching on flights beginning October 21, 2019, to Los Angeles, Long Beach, and San Jose. In its latest statement, Hawaiian has not said when other routes will get the new fare class. However, judging by past statements, I think it’s safe to say we’ll see system-wide rollout by the end of the year.
Now here’s the part that I take issue with most when it comes to any basic economy fare. As we’ve seen with other airlines, basic economy isn’t a means to lower fares. Instead, they’re a means to raise the standard economy fare by about $30. This was certainly the case with all other U.S. airlines that already offer basic economy, and it’s true with Hawaiian too.
Take a look. I pulled pricing for 10/18/19 for HNL-LAX, just days before Main Cabin Basic goes into effect.
As you can see, the Main Cabin fare for HA 10 is $199 for a one-way ticket. But, when I pull the same flight for 10/25, just days after the fare goes into effect, you see this.
That’s right. Main Cabin Basic has the $199 fare for the exact same flight, while Main Cabin goes up to $229. And much like the other players, that’s a $30 increase. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, this applies on other dates too. Just look at these flights on 10/15 and 10/22.
Hawaiian Airlines Launched Basic Economy, Final Thoughts
Again, the fact that Hawaii did this is no surprise. It’s also not surprising that they chose to follow their peers. But don’t be fooled by their narrative. This isn’t so Hawaiian can offer you lower fares. This change allows them to charge you more for the same service. Hopefully, though, they won’t implement Main Cabin Basic on inter-island routes. But I wouldn’t put it past them either. At least we have Southwest now!
So, if Hawaiian’s, frankly, crappy meal doesn’t mean anything for you, and if you aren’t married to HawaiianMiles (you shouldn’t be), there’s even less incentive to fly Hawaiian now. Really, fly Alaska instead. Their miles are more useful and are worth more, while their service is better, as is their credit card. Plus, while you have to pay for it, Alaska’s food is vastly superior to Hawaiian’s. And if you can’t fly Alaska, fly Delta instead for pretty much the same reasons, except for the fact that SkyMiles are garbage for redemptions.
By the way, as I’ve said in the past, if you think I enjoy bashing on Hawaiian, I don’t. I want to see them survive, thrive, and serve Hawaii well. They are, after all, my hometown airline and one of the largest employers in Hawaii. But, in my opinion, all is not well. Their service is more of a mixed bag than Alaska or Delta, they don’t upkeep their aircraft well, their pay isn’t exactly competitive, they keep making negative changes, there’s no viable replacement for their inter-island fleet, and so on. They’re an airline I grow increasingly concerned about, while also being one that’s always giving me reasons to avoid them. Heck, they’re kind of like AA, just not as bad… Yet.