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If you want to get to Honolulu from Los Angeles, Long Beach or San Jose and you’re looking to save money, good news: Hawaiian Airlines has just rolled out a low-priced option that puts a tropical vacation in easier reach for a lot of travelers.
The Hawaiian Airlines Main Cabin Basic fare will be available on select departures from the three California cities listed above for travel beginning Oct. 21. The move puts Hawaiian Airlines in sync with a major carriers who have been rolling out these lower-priced "basic economy"-style options, including United, American and Delta.
» Learn more: Travel loyalty program reviews
What’s included in Hawaiian Airlines Main Cabin Basic fare?
These lower fares vary slightly by airline, but the one thing they have in common is that they all exclude free advanced seat selection. Passengers traveling on Hawaiian Airlines Main Cabin Basic fares can select their seats at check-in or receive their assignment at the gate. That’s unfortunate, because sometimes by the time you’re checking in, there are nothing but middle seats left.
There are other downsides, too. For example, if you decide later that you want to upgrade to an "extra comfort" seat or to first class, you can’t. Nor can you change your flight or earn Hawaiian miles.
In return for accepting all these disadvantages, you get a reduced fare. And the reduction is significant. For example, we found a round-trip flight from Los Angeles to Honolulu in November for $418 in Hawaiian’s Main Cabin. That same flight in Main Cabin Basic costs just $358. That’s $60 less per ticket, or 14% off the regular economy fare.
» Learn more: Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles: The complete guide
Is Hawaiian Airlines Main Cabin Basic worth it?
If you collect Hawaiian Miles, this discount probably isn’t as valuable to you.
Consider that you’d normally earn about 5,000 Hawaiian miles on a round-trip flight between Los Angeles and Honolulu. HawaiianMiles are valued at around 1.2 cents each. So those $60 in fare savings are costing you about $60 worth of miles.
Main Cabin Basic deals during peak times
Don’t expect to find Main Cabin Basic deals at peak times. A recent search for travel during Christmas week showed no Main Cabin Basic option for Los Angeles to Honolulu. Main Cabin fares start around $618 round-trip at that time.
» Learn More: Find the best airline credit card for you
Basic economy across U.S. airlines
In NerdWallet's annual analysis of the best airlines, we compared the basic economy experience across the major U.S. airlines currently offering a basic economy fare. We looked at restrictions and allowances, including baggage, miles earning and trip modification policies. Here's how they stacked up:
Main Cabin Basic on Hawaiian Airlines, recapped
Hawaiian’s new low-fare product is a little more generous with perks than some of its competitors. Hawaiian Airlines is following American and Delta in allowing basic fare passengers a free carry-on bag on all routes, but Main Cabin Basic travelers on Hawaiian will also enjoy one of the rarest perks in domestic travel: a free hot meal.
If you’re planning a trip to Hawaii and are willing to give up the ability to choose your seat in exchange for a cheaper fare, Hawaiian Airlines’ Main Cabin Basic fares are worth looking into.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice: Calculator: How much does that basic economy seat really cost? Find the best travel credit card for you Here's how much your points and miles are worth