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Hawaiian adds $19-23 fee for many economy seats

During today’s Hawaiian Airlines earnings call, company CEO Peter Ingram touched on a new pricing that just started, and we have to say, it caught us off guard. We hadn’t noticed it before. These are described as “preferred seats” and we have the details below. Now, unless you want the most unwanted seats on the plane, you’ll have to pay.

Our view is that this is a way to increase airfares from Hawaii by $38 to $46 per person, round trip for many people. If, on the other hand, you don’t care where you sit, then the free option to sit in the back, or even the basic economy option with no seat assignment in the back advance may make more sense. See these differences below. Finally, this is a level of service that Hawaiian customers have historically expected to be complimentary. But the reality of today’s economy seems to dictate otherwise.

On another note, some airlines charge more or less depending on your loyalty as a frequent flyer or having their branded credit card. We haven’t seen that listed here.

“Preferred seats” are not “additional national comforts”. Here is the difference.

Their website says Preferred is +$19 to $23 per seat. “Grab a favorable seat in the main cabin. These are our most popular standard legroom seats. Preferred seats, according to Hawaiian, will add $10-15 million to their annual revenue.

You’ll pay for a regular seat without the benefits you get with Extra Comfort.

Hawaiian’s Extra Comfort is a different, more economical and premium offer. It offers extra legroom, priority boarding/screening, and in-seat A/C power outlet for an additional $54-$144. Preferred, on the other hand, just gives you an economy seat that has a better location.

This type of offering is certainly not new to the industry, but on the other hand, for Hawaiian, it is. Preferred is similar to what many other airlines do. The product offered is in no way different from any other economy seat. Instead, you choose a seat further forward in the cabin (but not necessarily), or otherwise, a seat considered more desirable.

On the A330 planes, we found that some of them were even the middle pair of seats in the four across the midsection of the plane. Others costing $23 were window or aisle seats.

On A321 narrow-body aircraft, we found that an additional cost preferential seat was required on all seats except those in the rear of the cabin. Also, the middle seats had no additional cost no matter where they were in the cabin.

Let’s make things more confusing: basic main cabin and main cabin options.

1. No seat allocation (free or paid). Main Cabin Basic is offered on some routes, but not all. With this option you get a lower price but there is absolutely no seat selection – seats are only assigned to you at check-in. There are no flight changes and you board the last group.

2. Seat assignment options (free or paid). The main cabin is their full fare economy version, which means you can choose your seats, although there may or may not be an additional charge. You can also sit with companions. Flight changes are permitted. There are no change fees (but fare differences apply) – plus there’s faster access to upper compartments.

Please share your thoughts on buying “preferred seats” on Hawaiian.

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