As airfares shoot up, experts see some deals
All rates are expected to rise, but some more quickly than others
Some words of advice from a local airline analyst as people plan their summer vacations: Interisland travelers should buy now. Mainland travelers should buy later.
"People who buy interisland tickets now rather than later are better off," said Peter Forman, the author of a book on Hawaii's airline industry. "The opposite will probably be true for tickets to the mainland."
Fareologists at farecast.com, an online company that predicts airfares, said in the past few days fares from Honolulu to the mainland are 30 percent higher than at this time last year, topping out at more than $650.
Some of the largest price increases have been for trips between Hawaii and Las Vegas. Now-defunct Aloha and ATA airlines carried up to 40 percent of the travelers, according to passenger records from McCarran International Airport.
"Prices were at this level briefly in May of last year, but we've never before seen prices change so much so fast in these markets," said Farecast.com spokeswoman Anne Hartzell in an e-mail.
Forman said he expects prices to taper off slightly closer to summer as other airlines add flights.
"As airlines enter the market to fill the gaps, prices will improve," he said. "But remember that we have the fuel price issue, so they will not be as attractive as they were last year."
Forman said he is uncertain whether prices will ever be as low as they have been in the past.
"I hate to say that you never will see them again, because it is a crazy market," he said. "But certainly not in the near future."
Some local travelers have said their confidence in buying airline tickets has been shaken after two airline closures in one week, but Forman said those jitters shouldn't last.
"There were signs that both Aloha and ATA were in trouble beforehand," Forman said. "Most of the other larger carriers are looking better financially."
Some local travel agents suggested residents book now, especially if they have definite plans like weddings or traveling with large family.
Local travel agent employee Kevin Phong, an employee at Islander Tours and Travel, said there are "a lot of seats right now" for summer tickets to Las Vegas, running at about $500.
Another travel agent, a 20-year veteran of the industry who declined to give his name, said there are still tickets to Las Vegas available in the mid-$400 range, but those could vanish soon.
"Almost definitely now" is the best time to buy, he said. "You'll get what's being quoted now."
Camille Brown and her Las Vegas family of four visit Hilo once a year to visit family members, and she's worried about what the price might be when she books for July.
She was at the Honolulu International Airport yesterday with her 64-year-old mother, who just had a hip replacement at the Queen's Medical Center and was flying back to Hilo.
"With my family of four, it'll be really, really expensive," Brown said.
Her mother, Carol Brown, said she called airlines and she was told that Las Vegas round trips cost about $700 each.
Rising interisland fares do not bode well for Maui resident Wendy Tuivaioge's budget, especially since she flies to Oahu once a month to visit family.
Tuivaigoe said once her miles for Hawaiian Airlines run out, she'll have to take another look at her monthly budget to adjust to the changing prices.
"Or I'm going to have my family come visit me in Maui instead," she said. "That way they end up paying."