Actually, we flew “go!, the new interisland airline that’s so quirky, it’s lowercase and punctuated. (Check out my videoblog entry, “go! Interisland.”) It’s a subsidiary of Phoenix-based low-cost carrier Mesa Air, and it’s shaken things up in Hawaii with airfares as low as $19.
Hawaii’s long-time local carriers, Hawaiian Airlines and Aloha Airlines have been fighting go! tooth and nail since its arrival last year via lawsuits and nasty T-shirts. Both just recently clawed their way out of bankruptcy, and it’s clear go! and its money-losing airfares are hoping to tip at least one of them back into the red.
Whether it’s capitalism at work or wholly unethical “predatory pricing,” it’s impossible to ignore the side-effect of the local airline war, and that’s cheap interisland travel. Before go! arrived, a one-way ticket from Honolulu to the Big Island could’ve set you back almost $200. Now, fare wars have brought the price down to $19. It’s insane, it’s not sustainable, but it’s a bargain you’d be a fool not to take advantage of.
So, the family and I snapped up some cheap go! tickets (it came out to $30, since we were flying on a holiday weekend) to make our much-needed pilgrimage to Hilo. Five paid seats for what I would’ve paid for just two a few years ago.
In Honolulu, go! operates out of the small commuter terminal rather than the main interisland terminal dominated by Hawaiian and Aloha. This turns out to be a good thing. The lines are shorter (though there were lines, the longest being for go!), the trip through security is quick, and in general I felt like a traveler again rather than a head of cattle.
The terminal setup also means you board the plane from the tarmac, which turned out to be the highlight of the trip for the kids. There’s certainly something romantic about being out in the open, the breeze carrying the scent of jet fuel, in the golden light of dawn. Though perhaps I’d feel differently if it were twelve noon.
The Bombardier CRJ-200ER is sharp, sleek, and small. Tall enough to stand in, but narrow enough to make you feel a little claustrophobic. Each row had two leather-esque seats on each side of the aisle. The pre-recorded announcement was done in pidgin by “B.E.T.,” some local group that’s not affiliated with Black Entertainment Television.
Before take off, there was “paperwork” to file, or at least that’s what the captain told us… something related to balance and weight. But soon enough, we were on our way. Well, sort of. We had to hold at the inner runway for several other jets to take off and land before finally crossing and taking off from the next runway over. Our little jet was off the ground in perhaps one-third the length of runway a Hawaiian 767 would require. We were looking down on Waikiki in no time.
We seemed to fly at a relatively low altitude, getting a good look at Moloka’i and Maui. The length of the flight seemed the same as on the other two airlines. The biggest difference, as far as my kids were concerned, was the lack of POG (passion orange guava) drink… a luxury that would’ve cost us $1.50 each.
Soon enough, we landed in Hilo, the plane practically skidding to a stop at the gate. It turns out that at ITO, at least, the airport could spare jetways to allow us to disembark right into the terminal. We were at our destination, on time, and in one piece. You can’t ask for much more than that.
Would I fly go! again? Yes, based purely on price. It’s a no-frills carrier, and while the employees seemed courteous and “local” enough, they certainly didn’t differentiate on service. The advantages of the commuter terminal could also be disadvantages, and while the planes were nicer than I expected, they still showed some wear and were definitely more prone to turbulence than larger aircraft.
As long as the other, major carriers match the ridiculous fares that go! offers, we might as well fly with old friends.
In fact, we booked our trip in October, but another fare war in November turned up prices on Hawaiian that would’ve saved us $100 overall for the exact same travel dates and times. But, the thing about special fares? No refunds.
One, two years from now, one of the three major interisland carriers will probably be out of the picture, and prices will probably return to the levels they were at before. (As in, it costs just as much to fly to Las Vegas as it does to Kona.) So get your cheap travel while you’ve got the chance!
Check out my videoblog entry documenting our flight on go!.