Here’s some breaking airline news I did not have on my 2023 Bingo card. Alaska Airlines just announced their plans to acquire Hawaiian Airlines for $1.9 billion. About an hour ago, Alaska Airlines tweeted on X, formerly Twitter: “Alaska Airlines and @HawaiianAir to combine, expanding benefits and choice for travelers throughout Hawai‘i, the West Coast and beyond.” They linked to this page.

This is huge news. Here’s what we know so far thanks to a press release.

  • “Combined company to maintain Alaska Airlines’ and Hawaiian Airlines’ strong, high-quality brands, supported by a single, compelling loyalty offering.” I’m happy they won’t be doing away with the Hawaiian Airlines brand. I think they know if they did, they would lose a lot of customers. Similar to what happened when Alaska purchased Virgin America in 2016.
  • “Expands fifth largest U.S. airline to a fleet of 365 narrow and wide body airplanes enabling guests to reach 138 destinations through our combined networks and more than 1,200 destinations through the oneworld Alliance.” I have multiple friends that fly for both airlines and one of them said, I guarantee you, Hawaiian gets rid of their Airbuses and becomes an all-Boeing airline. That’s what happened when Alaska purchased Virgin America so it makes sense.
  • “Honolulu to become a key hub for the combined airline with expanded service for residents of Hawai‘i to the Continental U.S. and creating new connections to Asia and throughout the Pacific for travelers across the U.S.”

First, when airlines consolidate, it’s usually bad for the consumer as it reduces competition. However, in this case, I think it’s good for the consumer for a number of reasons:

Both airlines are loved
Both Alaska and Hawaiian Airlines have a loyal and lovable following. So it’s not like when JetBlue announced they were buying Frontier and then Spirit Airlines; neither of those airlines have customers with the same sentiment. I’ve never met anyone who says they love Frontier or Spirit but I have met plenty who have stated their affection for JetBlue, Alaska and Hawaiian. With the exception of Southwest Airlines, they’re probably the most loved in the U.S.

oneworld Alliance gets stronger
Hawaiian Airlines wasn’t part of one of the three airline alliances (oneworld, SkyTeam or Star) so this now gives oneworld elites more options and earning power. For example, I’ve always preferred flying Hawaiian to Hawaii over American because American flies narrowbody A321s from Los Angeles (where I live) while Hawaiian flies the widebody A330 and soon, plush 787s.

Better experience
On top of having a better aircraft, customers with Hawaiian get, IMHO, better service. I find Hawaiian’s flight attendants much nicer and the moment you step on the plane, you feel like you’re in Hawaii. They offer local food, drinks (like mai tais and tropical juices like guava) while on American, it feels like you’re flying to Toledo. Nothing wrong with Toledo … except when you’re flying to tropical islands.

I’ve flown Alaska and Hawaiian many times. I love them both but when I go to Hawaii, I usually choose American because of my miles. But once this deal goes through you can bet I will be flying exclusively on Hawaiian (Alaska).

According to their press materials. “As the fifth largest U.S. airline, the combined networks will enable guests to reach 138 destinations directly, including 29 international markets, and more than 1,200 global destinations through the oneworld Alliance.”

Business as usual for now
Hawaiian Airlines just wrote in their marketing email to customers that’s it’s just business as usual for now: “While there is a lot to be excited about, today is just day one. There are approvals that are required to complete this combination, which we expect to occur in the next 12-18 months. Until then, it’s business as usual, and Hawaiian and Alaska Airlines will continue to operate as independent airlines. We look forward to sharing reliable, hospitable service across our network – now and into the future.”

Find more information from the airlines’ new website here.


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