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July 16, 2003 -- Hawai'i isn't usually in Pacific storm tracks, but Aloha Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines have been doing their best to whip up a storm of low fares there this summer. This week, they've extended their fare sales well into autumn, generating a whirlwind of terrific prices for fall travel.

Aloha's "Extended Summer Sale" lets you travel any time through November 16, with no blackout dates -- a rarity in the airline industry. (We can't guarantee that fares won't sell out over popular weekends, though.) Buy your tickets through July 22 for flights from the mainland US starting today, or for Hawaiian interisland flights starting August 18. No Saturday night stay is required, and you only have to buy one day in advance of travel if you want to leave right now.

Aloha's fares are notable for their availability -- when we checked many routes on Orbitz and on Aloha's Web site, we found that yes, the lowest fares are available. That's great! These low fares are roundtrip (unless noted otherwise) and include:

  • Orange County to Kona: $378
  • Burbank/Oakland/Orange County/Reno to Honolulu: $398
  • Phoenix/Sacramento/Las Vegas to Honolulu: $438
  • Burbank/Oakland/Orange County to Maui/Kauai/Hilo/Kona: $438
  • Reno to Kauai/Hilo/Kona: $438
  • Phoenix/Reno/Sacramento to Maui: $478
  • Phoenix/Sacramento to Kauai/Hilo/Kona: $498
  • Inter-island flights: $59 per leg

The fares don't include tax, but the taxes are almost exactly cancelled out by the 5% discount you get for booking at www.alohaairlines.com.

Hawaiian Airlines is advertising even lower fares, though we have one major concern about booking fall trips with them: they're in Chapter 11 bankruptcy at the moment. Hawaiian pipped Aloha on the LA-Honolulu route for sample dates we tested, with a cool $300 fare including tax, and delivered an amazing $388 fare from Las Vegas to Honolulu. But we just couldn't find a fare from San Francisco on Hawaiian that was lower than $410. Hawaiian's advertised sale fares (without tax) include:

  • LA or Ontario to Honolulu: $289
  • San Francisco or Sacramento to Honolulu: $309
  • San Diego, Las Vegas or Phoenix to Honolulu: $329
  • Portland or Seattle to Honolulu (September): $379
  • Portland or Seattle to Honolulu (later): $439

Fares from California, Las Vegas and Phoenix are good for travel September 1 through December 10; fares from Portland and Seattle are good for travel through December 14. You get an extra $20 off if you sign up for Hawaiian's free frequent-flyer program first. Get these fares at www.hawaiianair.com.

Not Going to Hawai'i? You Can Still Save

Aloha is also offering some low fares on domestic West Coast routes. These fares are competitive with Southwest and JetBlue, although those two budget carriers might beat Aloha's fares by a few dollars here and there:

  • Burbank-Las Vegas: $29
  • Orange County-Phoenix: $29
  • Oakland-Las Vegas: $49
  • Orange County-Reno: $49
  • Burbank-Sacramento: $49

For these routes, Aloha's a refreshing change from Southwest because you actually get an assigned seat. What you don't get is Southwest's almost-every-hour frequency. But if Aloha's schedules fit with yours, flying with them is a great way to get full-service airline quality at budget-airline prices.