If you are vacationing in Hawaii and want to see more than one island (and you should if time permits!), you will probably be taking several short (~ hour) interisland flights between the different Hawaiian Islands. These interisland flights are short (often less than 1 hour in the air) flights that average at about $69 for a one-way ticket if you book on time.
The trick to booking an interisland flight is to find the balance between “lost time”, in the form of a ~half a day of your vacation needed for travel, and the opportunity to see yet another fascinating island of Hawai’i.
Table of Contents
- Overviewof the 4 interisland airlines:
- Inter island flight booking tips
- Flights to Hawai’i
Tl;dr Investing 10 minutes of your time now to sort out your flights might save you money and hours of travel time while on Hawaii.
Airlines that offer interisland flights in Hawaii
There are currently four companies that offer interisland flights within the state of Hawai’i:
Three other companies have recently discontinued their interisland flights: Island Air (2017), Go! Airlines (2014) and Aloha Airlines (2008).
You can buy your tickets directly on the websites of these airlines or through comparison websites such as travelocity or expedia. There will be little to no price difference between booking directly or through an aggregator website.
1: Hawaiian Airlines
Hawaiian airlines (website) maintains a high level of service and has a good in-flight magazine to keep you entertained in the air and prepare yourself for your new destination.
Good to know: COVID-19 related information on the Hawaiian Airlines website.
Hawaiian Airlines interisland flights route map
Hawaiian Airlines has the best interisland flight coverage of all airlines discussed here and offers direct flights between almost all Hawaiian islands. They do so in collaboration with Empire Airlines from Idaho as the “‘Ohana by Hawaiian passenger service” (update: Hawaiian Airlines will temporarily suspend ‘Ohana by Hawaiian passenger and cargo services effective Nov. 1 2020, read more here).
For the Big Island, Hawaiian airlines offers direct flights to:
- Lihu’e on Kaua’i (only from Kona)
- Honolulu, O’ahu (from Kona and Hilo)
- Kahului, Maui (from Kona and Hilo)
Hawaiian Airlines also offers many flights to Hawaii both from the mainland and from international destinations in Asia and Australia.
Hawaiian miles and other airline frequent flyer programs
The frequent flyer loyalty program of Hawaiian Airlines is called “Hawaiian Miles”. However, flying with Hawaiian airlines can also earn you credit for other frequent flyer programs, and miles from other programs can sometimes be used to buy flights operated by Hawaiian Airlines.
These frequent flyer programs include Delta SkyMiles, American Airlines’ AAdvantage, the All Nippon Airways (ANA) Milage club, United Airlines Milage Plus, and many other programs.
Read the complete list of participating airline programs and the rules on how to earn and redeem miles while flying with Hawaiian Airlines here.
Hawaiian Airlines “Neighbor Island Travel Plan”
Hawaiian airlines sells so-called “travel plans”. This is a yearly program available only to holders of a HawaiianMiles account. With this program you can buy a set number of direct interisland flights to neighboring islands for a reduced price.
Every travel plan is personal, which means you cannot use it to buy a ticket for somebody else. There are four programs available: two including 4 or 8 round-trip interisland flights, and two including 24 or 60 one-way flights.
More information on the Hawaiian Airlines interisland travel plan.
Mokulele (website) is the lowest fare airline, but since the distances between the islands are small, price differences never get that noticeable.
Good to know: COVID-19 policies for Mokulele Airlines.
Mokulele interisland flights routes
Mokulele operates 120+ daily flights between most Hawaiian islands. These flights offers direct flights from Kona to Oʻahu, Maui and Molokai. Mokulele also operates a direct flight (once a week) between the Kamuela-Waimea airport (IATA code: MUE) in Waimea and Kahalui on Maui.
ʻImi Loa Frequent Flyer Program
The frequent flyer program of Mokulele is called the ‘Imi Loa frequent flyer program’. Under this program you earn 1 free one-way flight voucher for every 12 full-fare, completed, one-way trips. See the website for more information.
Good to know: COVID-19 updates for the Southwest routes to Hawaii.
Southwest airlines offers the following low-fare interisland routes from the Big Island:
- Between Hilo and Honolulu (HNL, on Oahu) starting January 2020
- Between Kona and Honolulu
- Between Kona and Kahului (OGG, on Maui)
Southwest also operates interisland flights between other Hawaiian islands as well as routes from the mainland to Hawaii. You can find all their current flights to/from Hawaii on the Southwest website.
Since Island Air went belly up in November 2017 only Mokulele can compete with Hawaiian Airlines, which currently holds a 90 percent share on interisland flights. Southwest airlines is a welcome new competitor on the interisland flight market.
4: Makani Kai Air (merging with Mokulele)
Makani Kai Air is a local aviation operator that operates small airplanes connecting Oahu, Kauai, Maui, Molokai, and the Big Island. At the moment the only route they offer from the Big Island is one between Kailua Kona and Kahalui on Maui. This route is served by a nine-passenger Cessna Grand Caravans and tickets are set at a fixed fare of $75 / seat.
Good to know: A merger between Makani Kai Air and Mokulele Airlines was announced June 2020.
Flights are scheduled four times a day, you can find more information on the Makani Kai Air website.
5: Island Air (ceased operations)
4 Inter Island flight booking tips
The following tips will help you to optimize your interisland flight schedule so you can spend as much time as possible enjoying your vacation:
1: Always choose the direct flight (when possible)
Oahu’s Honolulu Airport (HNL) is the central airport of Hawaii, while all other islands are often referred to as “neighboring islands”. This is important for you if you decide to book a flight between to neighboring islands, for example between the Big Island and Kaua’i.
There are a limited amount of direct flights available between these two destination, while many other flights are routed over Oahu. These indirect flights are often a bit cheaper than the direct flights, but if you have to fly over Oahu you will easily lose another 3 hours of your valuable vacation time.
We advise that you book direct flights whenever they are available, and perhaps even change the order in which you visit the islands if that means getting rid of many hours spend at the airport instead of on the beach.
2: Connecting your flight to your schedule is more important that finding the cheapest flight
Another point to consider when booking an interisland flight is the time of your flight. You will find that the cheapest flights are often very early in the morning or late in the evening. Don’t be tempted to save $20 by booking such a flight without thinking about your check out and check in times.
If you already have booked your accommodation, look up the check in and out times, factor in transport to and from the airport, and search for a flight that will connect the two as smoothly as possible.
3: Choose different airports (Hilo, Kona) for your arrival and departure to minimize driving distance
If you are planning to spend time on both sides of the island (and why wouldn’t you? A visit to the Big Island without a visit to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and one or two nights in Volcano Village is only half a visit), try to fly to one side of the Big Island and depart again from the other side.
4: Pick your seat with care for the best views from the plane
Inter island flights are short and during the flight you never reach altitudes that are normal on the longer (inter)continental flights. This means that looking out of your window can give you some spectacular views of the Hawaiian islands :).
We always like to pick out seats on the left/right side of the plane according to the following list:
- Oʻahu (HNL) to the Big Island (KOA/ITO): Right side
- Oʻahu (HNL) to Maui (OGG): Right side
- Big Island (KOA/ITO) to Oʻahu (HNL): Left side
- Maui (OGG) to Oʻahu (HNL): Left side
- To/from Kauai: no preference
Flights to and from Hawaii (long distance)
A trip to the Big Island almost always starts with a long flight to Hawaii of at least 5 hours. This plane ticket likely covers a significant part of the total costs of your vacation. Read our flights to Hawaii guide to find out how to find the best flights to Hawaii, when to book, and where to look.
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