Think Basic Economy to Hawaii is for you? Maybe not!

Still thinking about flying basic economy to Hawaii? These are the very cheapest rates advertised, they are hard to miss and many people end up buying them. These are often Hawaiian offerings priced around $99 each way. Here’s what Basic Economy to Hawaii is designed to help you decide if it’s right for you.

Airlines have their own names for it, but with these fares you get very limited service, a trial price and some surprises you weren’t expecting. These have more similarities than differences. Basic Economy was Delta Airlines innovation and was introduced over six years ago. Now all but one airline that flies to Hawaii have their version.

Basic Economy can save you $40 or more each way. So what’s the catch?

The answer lies in this question, “Why do airlines have easy economy to Hawaii?” Read on for some fascinating thoughts you may not have considered.

Basic Economy was created to grab your attention and maybe switch you off.

While basic economy fares continue to capture our attention and are therefore very popular, they have severe restrictions, some designed to discourage passengers from the very fare they just bought. So who is Basic Economy good for? In a word, the airlines.

1. Get to the top of the flight search.

One of the main reasons airlines switched to Basic Economy was to show a very cheap fare in search results, whether that be on the airline’s website, an OTA (like Expedia) or in Google Flights search.

2. A bad boarding experience in most cases.

Unless you are traveling to Hawaii very light, which is not usually the case, you can at least board with a full-size carry-on bag. The problem is that airlines may not have enough space when your last boarding party is allowed on the plane. That can create a problem where airlines can then hopefully check your bag.

3. Another purposely created an us-versus-them situation.

All economies are not created equal. And those who pay more than the lowest price in one way or another are treated significantly better. Passengers paying for a higher economy class or who are frequent flyers need not worry just to get themselves and their belongings on a flight to Hawaii.

4. Bait and switch.

The airlines are betting that once you learn basic economy, you’ll choose one of the higher fares on your next Hawaii vacation. It works? We’d say it does, and pretty well.

We only recommend Basic Economy to Hawaii, except in limited circumstances.

  • You are traveling alone or have no qualms about sitting with a travel companion.
  • You are content to stow your hand luggage under the front seat. That’s maybe all the space you’ll get
  • You don’t care where you sit on the plane, including a middle seat in the back of the plane.

Review of the basic economics of every airline to Hawaii.

Basic Economics to Hawaii.  is it for you

Below is what you can expect when flying basic economy on the six airlines that fly between the US mainland and Hawaii. Most of the cheapest flights to Hawaii now belong to this class of service. Airlines don’t offer basic economy on some routes, so you need to carefully consider what you’re getting.

In addition to the details below, double check if you’re trying to earn frequent flyer points as each airline’s way of doing this varies on basic economy fares. Also, rules can change frequently.

Alaska Airlines Basic Economy to Hawaii.

Alaska was late to the party with its “saver tariffs” starting in 2020. Alaska’s Basic Economy still gets you a free full-size carry-on bag. Advanced seat selection is not included and if assigned by the airline is most likely located at the rear of the aircraft. Maybe even in a dreaded middle seat. There is no guarantee that groups of 2 or more will be seated together. They also board last, so good luck finding a suitable spot for a large carry-on. Tickets cannot be rebooked or canceled after the first 24 hours. Only paid upgrades are allowed. The service on board is otherwise identical to regular Economy. Several Saver fare restrictions relate to seat selection, changes, and refunds, as reflected on the Alaska website.

American Airlines Basic Economy to Hawaii.

American Airlines Basic Economy does not offer seat selection options. These are assigned at check-in (24 hours before the flight). However, if you want to pay extra, you may be able to secure a seat reservation up to 48 hours before a flight. One complimentary full-size carry-on is allowed, although finding a seat might be difficult as you’ll board last. AA Frequent Flyers are eligible for upgrades while others are not. Same day changes may be possible for a fee, but there are no further changes or cancellations after 24 hours. The service on board is otherwise identical to regular Economy.

Delta Airlines Basic Economy to Hawaii.

Regarding Delta Basic Economy, the company says, “Please remember that refunds and upgrades are not available at any time. Basic economy is best for those traveling alone with fixed travel plans.” Delta Basic Economy offers seat selection with 24-hour check-in. No changes, cancellations or upgrades are allowed and you will not earn frequent flyer miles. Complimentary full-size carry-on and one personal item are included, but will there be room for yours? The service on board is otherwise identical to regular Economy.

Hawaiian Airlines Basic Economy to Hawaii.

The Main Cabin Basic economy on Hawaii’s premier airline does not include advance seat reservations. Available seats may be self-assigned at 24-hour check-in or will be assigned at the gate at Hawaiian’s discretion. “We cannot guarantee that your family will be able to sit together. If it is important to you that all family members sit together, we recommend that you choose another fare option with fewer restrictions.”

One free carry-on bag and one personal item are included with the same seat search restriction. HawaiianMiles members continue to earn one mile for every mile flown. Free meals, drinks and snacks. Free entertainment on board. No upgrades, changes or cancellations (after 24 hours) are possible.

Southwest Airlines (none) Basic Economy to Hawaii.

Southwest doesn’t have a basic economic proposition and has made it clear that it probably doesn’t, either. However, Southwest has previously revealed through customer survey that it is considering some sort of new lower-end product, though nothing seems imminent. All Southwest fares include two free checked bags, one full-size carry-on bag and one personal item. Your boarding priority determines the boarding order and finding enough space for your carry-on baggage. Make sure you check in exactly 24 hours before your flight and not five or ten minutes later.

United Airlines Basic Economy to Hawaii.

With United Airlines Basic Economy, seat assignment is provided 24 hours in advance of flight at no charge or up to 48 hours in advance for a fee of $10 to Hawaii. The service on board is otherwise identical to regular Economy. You board last, and use of luggage storage is available for an additional fee of $25, although the fee may not apply to Hawaii. The rules read: “Carry-on baggage is not included unless you are flying to South America, across the Atlantic or across the Pacific. You can prepay to check a bag or check a carry-on bag at your gate for the regular bag fee plus an additional $25. Otherwise, only under-seat storage is allowed, no full-size carry-on baggage. However, Premier members are entitled to one standard carry-on bag, even on basic economy fares.” No changes, cancellations or upgrades are allowed, and frequent flyers do not earn points towards Premier status. A new perk is that you can later upgrade your flight to a Standard Economy fare for $45.

Which Basic Economy to Hawaii is Best?

1. The winner is Southwest Airlines. Why? Because no basic economy is still the best basic economy. That makes Southwest the obvious winner in this category.

2. After that, to be honest, not much stands in the way of differentiation. We’d all give Alaska Airlines, Delta Airlines, and Hawaiian Airlines a tie for the next best basic economy, albeit far worse than the winner. Each arguably offers varying degrees of better service than the other two traditional airlines.

3. Who is the worst? United Airlines, which may or may not even allow a full-size carry-on bag for Basic Economy passengers.

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