October 17, 2003 -- Hawaii is always paradise. Spring, summer, fall, winter, it doesn't matter; the place is blessed. Several airlines right now are claiming to deliver similarly blessed fares to this balmy archipelago, but travelers should beware -- the loudest sales aren't the best.
For instance, Delta and United are both touting sales to Hawaii right now, but their fares from the West Coast are far from the best. In fact, we couldn't find a route into Honolulu where United reigned supreme, and we checked a dozen. (For this article, we used Orbitz to check fares; they're pretty good with long-haul domestic routes like this.)
All of these sales are for now through the first half of December, with days surrounding Thanksgiving blacked out. For fares on Delta, you must buy by Oct. 29; for fares on ATA, you must buy by Oct. 24. Hawaiian Airlines isn't giving a specific day their fares expire, so buy them as soon as possible.
LA to Hawaii For $299
From LA, Delta's $407 roundtrip fare pales before the current Hawaiian Airlines sale (www.hawaiianair.com), which offers flights from Los Angeles to Honolulu for $299 plus tax from now through December 14. Packager Pleasant Holidays (www.pleasantholidays.com) is also matching that fare, with non-stop flights from LA to Honolulu on ATA airlines.
Other best fares we found from the West include:
- From Denver, the best price comes from Delta, not United, with $535.
- From Phoenix, look to Hawaiian for a $399 fare.
- From Portland, Hawaiian wins again with $398.
- From Salt Lake City, Delta comes out ahead with a $427 fare.
- From San Diego, just drive to LA. The $400+ fares from that city make no sense.
- From San Francisco, Delta at $407 and Hawaiian at $409 run neck and neck.
- From Seattle, Delta's fare is the best at $398 roundtrip.
Hawaiian Fares from the Rest of the Country
Fares to Hawaii jump sharply when you leave the West Coast. In fact, travelers from the East may find their best deals by taking one of the many $198 cross-country fares to LA currently available and booking a separate $299 ticket from LA to Hawaii. That would make your roundtrip a total of $500 or so -- much lower than the direct fares we're seeing. Just remember, when you book trips as two separate tickets, your connections are not guaranteed or protected in any way.
For eastern and Midwestern destinations, ATA (www.ata.com) is joining the spate of sales, and they have the lowest fares from some cities.
- From Atlanta, Delta's got the cheapest non-stops with $563 round trips. But here's a weird one -- if you buy Delta flights through Continental, you can get a one-stop trip via Los Angeles even cheaper, for $548 on Orbitz including all taxes and fees. That's about $520 before taxes.
- From Boston, Delta round trips sell for $605. They're being matched by Continental, Northwest and American.
- From Chicago, ATA round trips are $598, matched by American and United.
- From Cincinnatti, Delta's charging $608, the lowest fare we found.
- From Indianapolis, ATA's selling roundtrips for $540. Those are the cheapest we found.
- From New York, the best non-stop we found was $585 on Continental. Orbitz also generated for us an oddball itinerary on ATA that was only $515, but had two stops.