Cheap flights to Hawaii? Don’t book until you read these 6 tips!

Maui from the air.

As we’ve already established, flights to Hawaii are rather long. So, if you’re going to be cooped up in a plane for several hours, you should spend some time making a good flight selection. We outline the important points to consider as you’re choosing a flight to Hawaii.

Is the cheapest flight to Hawaii the best option? Are you flying longer to Hawaii than is necessary? Are you going to be stuck in a middle seat? We answer all those questions and more.

How much does the flight cost?

Of course, budget is a top consideration when you’re choosing a flight to Hawaii. We discuss some tried-and-true strategies for getting the best fare to Hawaii so we won’t rehash those points. You will need to do a little bit of homework, so to speak, to educate yourself on what is and isn’t a good fare so that you’re ready to purchase tickets when it’s the right price for you.

What restrictions come with the fare?

Make sure you know any restrictions of the cheapest flights. They may not always the best option for you. Some airlines have created a new category of low fares with more limitations. For example, American Airlines has created a type of low cost fare called Basic Economy. With this fare, you can’t get a pre-assigned seat until you check-in. You can’t choose your seat without incurring a fee. You can’t use the overhead bins for storing any baggage. You will board last. Other major airlines have similar low cost fares. If you travel really light and don’t mind the limitations for the cheapest fare, Basic Economy or the like is a good option, however most people find that type of fare too restrictive. Make sure you know what you’re booking.

Kona airport
What’s the seating arrangement?

Before booking a flight, we look at the seating arrangement of the plane in combination with the available seats. To view the seating configuration, you can usually see the seating map on the airline’s direct website or via

Seat availability is the other factor to consider. For seat availability, we find that directly on the airline’s website.

As we look at the seating map and available seats, we can often determine if one flight has better seating over another flight. For example, what if the only seats remaining are middle seats and we can’t sit together? If a slightly more expensive flight offers us a chance of getting two seats together with at least one of us being at a window or aisle, we’d much rather choose that option.

Example of a seat map from
How long is the travel time? How many stops?

Consider the total travel time and number of stops as you are comparing flights. A stop can add at least 1.5 hours more to the total travel time. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather spend 1.5 hours of extra time in Hawaii instead of being in an airplane or airport. So, when possible, we try to choose flights with the least number of stops.

Another reason to try to minimize the number of stops is that with each connection, there’s a chance for delays, missed connections and for your checked luggage to go missing.

Kauai coming in to view.
Making connections

Unless you are lucky enough to be able to travel from one of the larger or West Coast airports with direct flights to Hawaii, you’ll probably have to make a stop to connect to another flight along the way.

The airlines factor in connection time to allow enough time from one flight to the next. If you purchase a single itinerary from a single airline, then you don’t need to worry if there’s enough connection time. The airline has done that work for you. The exceptions to this are unforeseen delays and/or if you need to make special allowances for walk/transfer time.

If, however, you book separate flights with two different airlines, you may need to make a special consideration for connections. For example, one year we purchased roundtrip flights from our home airport to New York’s JFK on American Airlines. Separately, we booked roundtrip flights on Hawaiian Airlines from JFK to HNL. We thought we would have plenty of time between connections in JFK with about an hour and a half gap. Once we started looking closer at the flights, we realized that the flights were arriving and departing from different terminals. We had quite a walk and train ride and more walking. Plus, we had to go through security again. Thankfully we had just enough time, but it was a bit stressful making the connection.

You may also want to consider the punctuality of each connecting flight. Check to see how often those flights are on time. You can search on-time arrival statistics by airline and flight number at the Bureau of Transportation’s website.

For more advice about connections, see this USA Today article.

A view of Waikiki and Diamond Head from a window seat.
Consider seasonal weather patterns with the flight routes

When choosing a flight route to Hawaii, it’s helpful to consider the seasonal weather patterns of the connecting airports. For example, we are often choosing between connections in Dallas or Chicago. As Chicago tends to get more winter weather than Dallas, we opt for connections in Dallas in the winter.

Additional Hawaii flight articles you may like:

What are your best tips for flying to Hawaii?

  1. Is there a problem with smoke from the erupting volcano on the other islands?

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