If Alaska and Hawaiian merge, would interisland fares return to GDSs?

If the Alaska Airlines-Hawaiian Airlines merger happens, it could mean an easier GDS booking process for Hawaiian flights. 

Alaska currently makes all of its fare content available to the GDSs and doesn’t charge a distribution fee. Hawaiian, conversely, withholds its Hawaii interisland fares from GDSs, requiring travel advisors to use Hawaiian’s direct or NDC-enabled channels for those bookings. 

Hawaiian also assesses a GDS surcharge of $7 per segment as part of its strategy to push agencies toward NDC-enabled booking options. 

In an email Tuesday, Alaska said it hasn’t decided how it would integrate Alaska and Hawaiian’s distribution content. 

“We’re still working through plenty of issues that will take time,” a spokesman said. 

Alaska announced Sunday that it has agreed to purchase Hawaiian for $1.9 billion, including debt. The airlines have set an estimated timetable of 12 to 18 months to close the deal, which must receive approval from antitrust regulators at the Department of Justice. Should the deal go through, Alaska intends to maintain the Hawaiian brand.

Kathy Campbell, who heads leisure air bookings for Frosch Travel, said she hopes Alaska will align the distribution approach of Hawaiian with Alaska’s existing methods. 

“In my opinion, it would make the agent’s job a lot easier if all of HA content was available in the GDS,” she said, referring to Hawaiian by its IATA code. “The interisland process is time-consuming and frustrating for the front-line agent.”

Brett Snyder, who pens the Cranky Flier blog and owns the Cranky Concierge travel agency, said he thinks Alaska will put Hawaiian’s interisland flights back in the GDSs. Hawaiian’s removal of that flight inventory in late spring 2022, he said, has handicapped the carrier against its primary interisland competitor, Southwest, which now embraces GDSs.

“I think Alaska sees the value in that channel and will be seeking to bolster itself,” Snyder said.

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