After months of hints and speculation, Virgin America made it official today: Starting November 2, they will fly to Hawaii from San Francisco.
Of course, you can expect that Virgin will do these flights right. I envision funky, tiki touches like mai tais, leis, aloha shirts and Hawaiian mood lighting. For example, the carrier is offering free mai tais to all passengers at SFO’s Terminal 2 today to celebrate the announcement.
But don’t expect amazingly low fares.
Virgin’s introductory fares from between SFO and Honolulu or Maui are $398 round trip with restrictions. That’s more than many of the sale fares we’ve seen so far this year from Alaska Air, Delta, Hawaiian, and United, which at their lowest point hovered around $320-$350 round trip.
To me, that’s a signal from Virgin that it’s not in this crowded market to compete on price. Instead, I bet it will make a big deal about service.
For example, sale fares are available only during the slow “dead weeks” of early November and early December. Want to fly to paradise for Christmas? It’s going to cost you. The lowest economy fare I could find on the site today is a whopping $1564.00. Wanna fly up front in first class? That will cost you $2,998 round trip according to Virgin’s website today.
Checking with Hawaiian Air today, I found fares from the Bay Area to the islands as low as $368 round trip for fall flights– cheaper than Virgin’s introductory fares.
Would you rather use points? Elevate members can redeem reward flights to Hawaii – with no black-out dates, for as few as 8559 points– but keep in mind that Virgin’s redemptions are based on ticket prices.
Related TravelSkills post: 7 things to know about Hawaiian Air
Here are details about Virgin’s Hawaiian schedule:
Virgin says that the flights will be operated with brand new Airbus A320 aircraft that it will get later this year, which will be equipped with fuel-saving, ‘sharklet’ wingtip devices, which help aircraft operate more efficiently, especially over longer haul routes. And they’ll need it– flights to Hawaii run 5-6 hours in length according to Virgin’s website.
What do you think? How will Virgin fare in a market that already has keep competition from four major players? Will you fly Virgin to Hawaii? Please leave your comments below.
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