Travel Wise / Hawaii airfares, mileage partners, Sea-Tac waits
Hawaii fares are expected to go up, and PreCheck program expands at airport.
Special to The Seattle Times
Expect to start paying more for flights to Hawaii. So best to use those frequent-flier miles for Hawaii flights while you can, advises Joe Brancatelli, publisher of JoeSentMe.com, a newsletter for business travelers.
The three big players — United, Hawaiian and Alaska Airlines — are cutting back on seats this fall, Brancatelli reports. That likely means higher ticket prices and fewer seats available for award travel.
Competition between Hawaiian Airlines and Alaska has been intense in the Pacific Northwest and the Bay Area, resulting in deals for passengers but weaker profits on some routes.
Alaska Airlines spokeswoman Marianne Lindsey confirmed that the airline will cut capacity nearly 7 percent in the next five months, mainly by reducing daily flights from Oakland and San Jose to the Big Island and Kauai.
Allegiant Air is putting Hawaii flights from Boise, Spokane and Eugene on seasonal hiatus the week of Aug. 14. Flights from Bellingham to Honolulu and Maui won’t be affected.
Kenmore and Alaska break up
Seattle’s Alaska Airlines and Kenmore Air have ended a three-year mileage partnership that allowed customers to use frequent-flier miles for everything from a flight to Mexico or Hawaii to a seaplane trip to Victoria, B.C.
“We’re the ones that opted out,’’ says Kenmore president Todd Banks.
Alaska is a Goliath of regional airlines. Kenmore is a David, but there was no bad blood between the two, says Banks. Technology was the culprit.
“We were using a homegrown-reservation system,’’ he explained. “It felt like it was time to make a shift to more modern technology, but ironically the two systems don’t have the ability to hold hands with the other.’’
Banks said it would be “challenging and expensive’’ to tie into the Sabre central-reservation system that Kenmore used to connect with Alaska before the switch.
“It’s something that’s still on our to-do list, but it will take some time to put together,’’ he said.
Meanwhile, Kenmore, which flies seaplanes to Vancouver Island and the San Juans and small planes to other Northwest and B.C. destinations, is taking advantage of its new technology to partner with local travel suppliers to market vacation packages.
With the addition of Virgin America to the Transportation Security Administration’s PreCheck program, Sea-Tac Airport is among five of 40 U.S. airports to have expedited security screening in place for all six federally approved airlines that participate. (The others that participate in PreCheck are Alaska, Delta, American, United and US Airways.)
Virgin America fliers approved for federal “trusted traveler” programs (such as Global Entry and Nexus) are automatically eligible for PreCheck. Later this year, Virgin plans to invite members of its frequent-flier program to apply. Southwest and JetBlue will likely join the PreCheck program later this year.
PreCheck fliers use special screening lanes (Checkpoint 3 in the center of Sea-Tac’s main terminal) and participants don’t need to take off their shoes, jackets or belts or remove laptops or liquids from carry-ons.
One hitch is that TSA randomly preselects some PreCheck members for full screening. Until recently, unless you knew how to read a bar code printed on your boarding pass, you had no way of knowing your status until you reached the screening area.
Delta, United and US Airways now alert passengers of their clearance on a particular flight by printing a PreCheck notification indicator on boarding passes.
“We are currently working with Alaska Airlines to make this feature available,” said TSA spokeswoman Lorie Dankers.
Convenient. Yes. But how “random” is random screening if people know about it in advance?
Sea-Tac security backups
Meanwhile, those not eligible for PreCheck could face longer than usual waits during the busy summer-travel season. More than 150 people missed Alaska Airlines flights at Sea-Tac recently when TSA failed to adequately staff checkpoints.
“Checkpoint wait times were reduced dramatically (last) weekend as the TSA was able to get more staff on to open up more lanes,” said airport spokesman Perry Cooper.
Also helping is the reopening of a special lane (Checkpoint 1, near the south end of the terminal) on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays when thousands of cruise-ship passengers depart Sea-Tac.
Carol Pucci is a Seattle freelance writer. Contact her at travel.carolpucci.com. Twitter: @carolpucci