What is the Best Airlines to Fly Inter Island in Hawaii?

hawaii airlines

What is the best airline to fly inter-island in Hawaii? I will be making a list to show you, which is the best airline in Hawaii according to their destinations, prices, planes, customer service, and loyalty programs. Keep in mind I am using Honolulu as the departure city.


First, let us start with the destinations



Go! Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines

Island Air

Mokulele Airlines

Lihue, Kauai (LIH)




Hoolehua, Molokai (MKK)



Lanai City, Lanai (LNY)



Kahului, Maui (OGG)





kapalua, Maui (JHM)


Kona, Big Island/Hawaii (KOA)




Hilo, Big Island/Hawaii (ITO)




Kamuela Waimea, Big Island/Hawaii (MUE)


Mokulele has the most destinations, but not necessarily the most flights. Hawaiian though limited in destinations, has the most flights interisland and is the only airline that flies outside of Hawaii.

What is the cheapest airlines

When shopping around for flights, the first thing that comes to mind after finding your destination is the price. Since not all four airlines fly to the same places, we will use the destination that they all have in common Kahului. For our date, I have selected a round trip from Jan 15-22, 2014.

  • Go!: Starting from $129
  • Hawaiian: Starting from $171
  • Island Air: Starting from $130
  • Mokulele: Starting from $168

Go! is the cheapest and Island Air is in second place with only a dollar difference.

What type of planes do they operate with

Go! operates on a fleet of Bombardier CRJ200 planes. These planes feature 50 standard seats with a pitch of 31” and width of 17.5”. Nothing fancy, just a smaller jet engine plane to get you to where you need to go. Seating is a 2 x 2 format, with 2 rows and 2 seats in each row, so you will always get either an aisle seat or a window seat.

Hawaiian interisland flights operate on Boeing 717 planes featuring 115 standard seats and 8 recliner seats in first class. The standards seats in economy have a pitch of 30-31” and width of 18”, while the first class recliner seats have a pitch of 37” and width of 18.5”. Seating format for these planes are 2 x 3, so some people end up in a small middle seat. FYI for such a short ride first class is not worth it unless your company is paying for it or you get a free upgrade.

Island Air operates on a fleet of 64 seat ATR-72 turboprop planes. These planes feature leather seats with a pitch of 30” and 17.5” wide. There is no first class and the seating is in a 2 x 2 format. The thing to note about these planes are that overhead bins are smaller, so normal carry-on luggage must be stowed under the seat, which fits only one 22”x14”x9” luggage. This leads to a lack of legroom, but the seats itself are the most comfortable of all the interisland airlines.

Because the planes run on turboprop engines, it can be a bit louder than you are used to, but it is not unbearable. The turboprop engines are not as powerful, so the speed at which you are traveling is a little slower making the ride to the outer islands a little longer. For example from Honolulu to Lihue, it is about 10 minutes longer.

Mokulele has the smallest plane of all, a Cessna Grand Caravan 208b, featuring a single propeller engine and seating for 10. I was not able to find the exact dimensions of the seats, but from the reviews that I have read, they are not big at all and there is no room for even small carry-on items like a backpack or large purse.

Being that it is a tiny plane weight has to be shifted accordingly and if you weigh over 350 pounds, Mokulele will not be able to accommodate you. With a single propeller plane, you can bet that your flight will take even longer than Island Air, which has 2 propellers.

What about customer service?

Customer Service is a key component to any business, but often times is lacking in the airlines industry. When I deal with customer service representatives from airlines industry I do not expect much from them, other than to do their job right. I understand that they have to deal with many unpleasant customers and for the pay they receive, it isn’t worth it for some of them to go the extra mile. So holding a lower standard of customer service in the travel industry lets start our evaluation.

Go! has okay customer service on and off the plane. Ticketing agents are decent and do their job well. The only problems I have heard are when they have code-shared flights with Mokulele. In-flight customer service is on par with the rest of the interisland airlines. Because the flights in Hawaii are so short, this is how the flights go. Routine safety check, belts fastened, tray tables and seats in upright locked positions, instructions on emergencies etc. You take off, drinks are served, drinks are collected and you start your descent. Within that short time there is not much interaction with the flight attendants, so no real difference in any airlines.

Hawaiian recently replaced their ticketing agents with kiosks. This is a good and bad thing in the ways of customer service. The good thing is that there are multiple kiosks, so waiting in line is almost non-existent. The bad news is that there can be some problems with the kiosks or you don’t know how to use the kiosk and there is no attendant around to help. You also have to check in your own luggage and transport it to a different area. There someone will check your tag and put it on the belt for you. Again in-flight customer service is on par with the other interisland carriers. The only difference is that Hawaiian has a first class section. The Biggest difference in customer service comes from on time flights. Hawaiian is one of the highest rated airlines in the nation for on time flights.

Island Air seems to have a good ground crew and in-flight crew. I haven’t heard any real complaints nor have I experienced any with Island Air. The biggest complaint I have come across from reading reviews is their on-time flights. Other than that, they are a good alternative to Hawaiian airlines.

Mokulele has a bad reputation for customer service. Their ground crew is not so professional from what I have read and seen. They also have a small fleet of planes that regularly break and cause delays. The most prominent complaint about them is their on-time flights are the worst. This is where I believe Go! gets some heat because they are code shared with Mokulele. Many people complain about Go!, when it is really Mokulele’s planes that are the problem. As for in-flight service, there are no flight attendants. Remember this is a Cessna airplane, so it would be a bit hard for someone to walk around serving drinks in-flight.

Loyalty Programs, what every frequent flyer wants to know about

Go! has a simple loyalty program called go! Miles. For every segment that you fly, you will receive 500 miles. After attaining 5,000 miles, you are entitled to 1 free one-way interisland ticket. In simpler terms if you fly 5 round trips, you get a free one-way and 10 round trips gets you 1 free round trip ticket. They are not partnered with any other airlines, so there is no earning miles off other airlines or vice versa. Here is a link to more information about go! Miles.

Hawaiian airlines has the biggest loyalty program in Hawaii, but maybe not the best. Among the inter-island carriers they have some pluses, but compared to US carriers Hawaiian’s programs is one of the worst. The name of their program is HawaiianMiles. So why do I think they are the worst? Well they are the only interisland airlines to have a lounge, but their lounge is not very good at all. It’s a waste of time to go in there. Sure, they have some free sodas and light snacks, but nothing else. Most of the time people print out their boarding passes at home and arrive 30 minutes prior to departure, so there is no need to visit the lounge.

They also have elite status unlike the other inter-island carriers. Again, Hawaiian can’t compete against mainland carriers in this category either. Though there are many similarities like bonus miles, free upgrades, lounge access, etc. As an elite member you are able to board the plane a little earlier than general boarding, but unlike the organized structure of boarding with a mainland carrier, Hawaiian lets its elite members and customers with children get on all at the same time. It doesn’t matter what status level you are, you all get board at the same time. The thing that bugs me is that they even let families with children over 5 years old to board in this category, even though it is against their policy.

It is a little harder to rack up miles when they only give you actual miles flown and an inter-island flight is between 84 miles to 318 miles one-way. The other and more practical way to do it is to collect segments, 30 for Pualani Gold and 60 for Pualani Platinum.

This leads to my next big point; Hawaiian’s award chart is one of the worst for interisland flights, and an ok chart to the mainland. To travel interisland on an award ticket, you need 7500 miles for a one-way ticket. For example if you flew the longest distance from Hilo to Lihue of 318 miles, it would take you 24 one-way tickets or 12 round-trips to get 1 free one way ticket! This is more than double that of other inter-island carriers.

hawaiian airlines award chart

With mainland airlines like American, United, and US Airways, you can redeem 5,000 miles for a one-way trip interisland on Hawaiian Airlines. What is even better is Virgin America only charges 3,000 miles to fly interisland one-way on Hawaiian!

My last point is that though Hawaiian has better planes than other interisland carriers have, they do not have better planes than other mainland carriers do. Hawaiian’s first class seats are not that great it is pretty just an oversized economy seat and not worth paying for an upgrade. To sum it all up Hawaiian does not have a loyalty program worth joining. You get lounge access to lounges not worth using, priority boarding that isn’t much different from general boarding, miles that will take forever to accumulate and use, and upgrades to subpar first class seats, not to mention that the level of customer service does not change with seating classes or elite status. You can read more about HawaiianMiles here.

I feel that Island Air has the best loyalty program of all. Well I am disloyal to them, but they still have a good program and let me explain why. First of all lets start with their program and what its called. Island Air has a simple program called Cloud 9 Rewards. Basically it is like go!, except that you only have to fly 9 one-way interisland trips for a free one-way ticket interisland instead of 10. But the reason I feel it is the best is because of its partner airlines, United. You can earn 500 United miles per segment on Island Air. United Miles are way more valuable than any interisland airline miles. This is because you can use it domestically, internationally and oh yah interisland. Remember when I said that you could use 5,000 United miles to fly on Hawaiian Interisland. You can find out more about Island Air’s loyalty program here.
Mokulele currently does not have a loyalty program.

To sum it all up

Go! has the most destinations, the best pricing, and an ok loyalty program. Hawaiian has the most flights, best planes and the best customer service with on-time flights. Depending on who you are the kiosk might be another plus. Island Air has the second best price with just a dollar difference, ok customer service and the best loyalty program. Mokulele…. well lets just leave it at that.

Personally, when I fly interisland I am in no rush to get anywhere, so I don’t mind the chance of a slight delay. I rather find the cheapest flight that has ok customer service and earns miles. This is why I feel Island Air is the best for me. If you are not like me and want to pay the extra dollars to be on-time and have extra space for carry-ons then Hawaiian is your best bet. If Go! was not code shared with Mokulele and was a partner of a mainland carrier I would prefer them over Island Air, but they are not and probably will not be any time soon.

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