If you’re heading to Hawaii in the USA and wanting to visit multiple islands, you’ll soon realise that you’ll need to fly between the islands. While a ferry service has operated at times in the past, and still operates to the smaller islands of Molokai and Lanai off Maui, these days the only way to get between the major islands in Hawaii is by plane, unless you embark upon a cruise.
Depending on what Hawaiian islands you’re flying between, there are different airlines to choose between. Currently, inter-island flights are offered by Hawaiian Airlines, Southwest Airlines and Mokulele Airlines. So, how do the different Hawaii interisland flights compare?
Flying with Hawaiian Airlines
The first airline you’re likely to consider is Hawaiian Airlines. They’re the most prominent airline in Hawaii, plus they also connect Hawaii to many international destinations, in North America, Asia and the South Pacific. Hawaiian Airlines also probably offers the highest number of routes, or at least the most number of interisland flights.
Interisland Routes Flown by Hawaiian Airlines
Hawaiian Airlines offers the following interisland routes:
- Direct flights from Honolulu (Oahu) to Kahului (Maui), Kailua-Kona and Hilo (Hawaii Island, or the Big Island), and Lihue (Kauai)
- Direct flights from Kahului (Maui) to Honolulu (Oahu), Kailua-Kona and Hilo (Big Island), and Lihue (Kauai)
- Direct flights from Kailua-Kona (Big Island) to Honolulu (Oahu), Kahului (Maui) and Lihue (Kauai)
- Direct flights from Hilo (Big Island) to Honolulu (Oahu) and Kahului (Maui)
- Direct flights from Lihue (Kauai) to Honolulu (Oahu), Kahului (Maui) and Kailua-Kona (Big Island)
Basically, they offer direct flights between all four main islands in the Hawaiian islands, connecting most but not all of the major airports. Additionally, they have a huge number of flights.
On the most popular routes, such as Honolulu to Kahului, flights are as regular as every 30 minutes. The price of flights varies greatly throughout the day, with the flights at the most popular times of day being twice the price or more of the off-peak flights.
What About Ohana by Hawaiian?
Up until 2021, Hawaiian Airlines also operated a subsidiary carrier, Ohana by Hawaiian. This subsidiary airline operated turboprop planes to both some of the above airports, plus also the smaller airports of Kapalua, Lanai and Mokolai Airports. However, this carrier has been discontinued.
What’s Included on Interisland Flights
When flying on Hawaiian Airlines interisland flights, no check-in luggage is included. However, the carry-on allowance of one carry-on bag up to 25 pounds plus an additional personal item that can be as large as a backpack (as long as it fits under the seat in front) is quite generous.
For Main Cabin passengers a refreshment of either a fruit juice or water is included, with the option to purchase alcoholic beverages on afternoon flights. Not that you have much time for anything else on the short flight!
Flying Pets on Hawaiian Airlines
Hawaiian Airlines permits pets to travel both in the cabin and as checked baggage, with some limitations. On interisland flights both options are permitted, with a charge of $35 for pets in the cabin and $60 for pets as checked baggage.
Pets are also permitted to fly in the cabin on flights between Hawaii and the Continental USA, except there are restrictions on flights to and from selected airports, either year round or during the summer months. Don’t also forget to check the paperwork requirements for Hawaii.
Flying in Hawaii with Southwest Airlines
Southwest Airlines are a relatively new entrant to the Hawaiian market, only starting flights to Hawaii and between the islands in 2019.
Initially they offered flights from a just a few cities on the West Coast in California, however, they have since expanded their connections to Hawaii, making them an ideal choice for a Hawaiian vacation.
Routes to Hawaii Flown by Southwest Airlines
Currently Southwest Airlines flies from eight cities in the American Southwest to Hawaii. Unless otherwise listed, they fly from each of these cities to Honolulu (Oahu), Kahului (Maui), Kailua-Kona (Big Island) and Lihue (Kauai) Airports:
- Las Vegas
- Long Beach (only to Honolulu (Oahu) and Kahului (Maui))
- Los Angeles
- Phoenix (only to Honolulu (Oahu) and Kahului (Maui))
- Sacramento (only to Honolulu (Oahu) and Kahului (Maui))
- San Diego (only to Honolulu (Oahu))
- San Jose
Most of these routes are offered once per day as daily flights, although more Southwest flight options are available using connecting flights.
Interisland Routes Flown by Southwest Airlines
Southwest Airlines flies the following interisland routes in Hawaii:
- Direct flights from Honolulu (Oahu) to Kahului (Maui), Kailua-Kona and Hilo (Big Island) and Lihue (Kauai)
- Direct flights from Kahului (Maui) to Honolulu (Oahu), Kailua-Kona (Big Island) and Lihue (Kauai)
- Direct flights from Kailua-Kona (Big Island) to Honolulu (Oahu) and Kahului (Maui)
- Direct flights from Hilo (Big Island) to Honolulu (Oahu)
- Direct flights from Lihui (Kauai) to Honolulu (Oahu) and Kahului (Maui)
Comparing Southwest Airlines with Hawaiian Airlines
So, how does Southwest Airlines compare with Hawaiian Airlines on its interisland flights? When Southwest Airlines first started flying in Hawaii, it operated far fewer flights than Hawaiian Airlines, but consistently offered lower prices.
However, these days the difference is not as big. I performed a quick comparison in May 2023 of the flights offered by the two airlines between Honolulu and both Kahului and Kona on multiple dates.
While initially Southwest Airlines only typically flew once per day on each route, these days it offers multiple flight times, although still not as frequently as Hawaiian Airlines. Additionally, the prices charged are quite similar – there is no clear winner for the cheapest flights. Sometimes one airline has some higher fares, but it is sometimes Hawaiian, sometimes Southwest.
What’s Included on Interisland Flights
One advantage of flying with Southwest Airlines over Hawaiian Airlines, especially when the ticket prices are similar, is that Southwest Airlines includes two checked bags in the ticket price, in addition to a carry-on bag and personal item.
On short flights such as the interisland flights flown by Southwest Airlines, only water is served.
Flying Pets on Southwest Airlines
Southwest Airlines accepts small pets in the cabin on interisland flights between the Hawaiian Islands. The standard pet fee of $95 generally applies. However, this has been reduced to only $35 on interisland flights between 6th September 2022 and 30th June 2023. Hopefully this occurs again next year.
Unfortunately though, Southwest doesn’t fly pets on flights to or from Hawaii, except for trained service dogs. Note also that Southwest doesn’t fly pets in the hold.
Flying with Mokulele Airlines
The final option for interisland flights in Hawaii is Mokulele Airlines, operated by Southern Airways Express. Mokulele operate far smaller planes on most of their interisland routes – Cessna Grand Caravan planes that seat just nine passengers (plus two seats for the pilot and co-pilot). However, they also fly the larger Saab 340B Plus on selected routes.
In 2020, Makani Kai Air merged with Mokulele Airlines, with all flights now operated by Mokulele Airlines.
Interisland Routes Flown by Mokulele Airlines
Mokulele principally operates services connecting some of the smaller airports in Hawaii, including many airports that aren’t served by other commercial flights. They currently fly to the following airports:
- Honolulu on Oahu
- Ho’olehua and Kalaupapa on Molokai
- Lanai City on Lanai
- Hana, Kahului and Kapalua on Maui
- Hilo, Kailua-Kona and Waimea-Kohala on the Big Island
Check out their route map for details of the latest connections. Alternatively, they can also operate chartered flights between any of these airports, plus a handful of other airports.
Comparing Mokulele Airlines with Other Airlines
The flights operated by Mokulele tend to be more expensive than other flights on the same routes, although it’s still good to compare the prices. Their main advantage are the additional airports that they serve.
What also stood out for me when I flew with Mokulele Airlines (back in 2016), is the fun and relaxed attitude about flying with them. In this day of stressful flights, due to the high security precautions and the cattle-like treatment, Mokulele were refreshingly different.
When checking in at Kahului, there was no security to go through, as they operate from the commuter terminal. (Although this is in place at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu and may have also changed at Kahului Airport.)
The pilot briefing occurred when the co-pilot turned around and lifted aside the curtain. And as the co-pilot remarked, we also were all in first-class, with a window seat each!
Unfortunately we spent most of the flight I caught above the ocean, meaning it wasn’t as scenic as a strictly scenic flight. But the view was glorious when we were coming in low above the coastline on the Big Island. If you’re not comfortable with small planes, you may want to avoid Mokulele Airlines. Otherwise, it was definitely my favourite flight in Hawaii!
What’s Included on Interisland Flights
The baggage included with Mokulele fares is less than for other airlines flying within Hawaii. You only receive one free piece of carry-on, with a weight limit of 15 pounds, due to the limited cabin space. Fees apply for checked baggage.
Flying Pets on Mokulele Airlines
Mokulele is the most pet-friendly airline in Hawaii! Both dogs and cats are allowed in the cabin for inter-island travel flying on the Cessna Grand Caravan planes, with pets up to 80lb (36kg) permitted.
Up to two small pets with a combined weight of 25 lbs (11kg) are permitted in one carrier, for a charge of $25 one way. Larger pets also need to be in a kennel during the flight, with space allocated for them in the cabin, with a fee of $75 per leg applying.
Not surprisingly given the small planes flown by Mokulele, there is normally a restriction of one pet per flight. For further details, see their full pet policy.
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About the Author
Shandos Cleaver is the founder of Travelnuity: Dog-Friendly Travel. She has travelled extensively with her Miniature Dachshund, Schnitzel, including to 33 countries across Europe, every state and territory of Australia except Tasmania, and 10 of the United States. She’s passionate about providing inspiration and information to others wanting to travel with their dogs, whether close to home or internationally.
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