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55M flyers: Alaska Airlines to acquire Hawaiian Airlines in deal worth nearly $3B

Alaska Airlines has announced it intends to purchase Hawaiian Airlines in a move that will see the two brands operate as a combined company.

Alaska Airlines has announced it intends to purchase Hawaiian Airlines in a move that will see the two brands operate as a combined company.

Worth around US$1.9 billion (approximately AU$2.85 billion), the two carriers say the deal will increase overall customer choice and grow both airlines’ already significant footprints within the US, North America and globally. The merger would also see the airlines combine their loyalty programs into one scheme.

If given the go-ahead by regulators, the combined entity is expected to boost both brands’ competitiveness in the cut-throat US aviation market, especially in regions that rely heavily on air travel – that is the 49th and 50th American states, Alaska and Hawai’i.  

The deal is forecast to close in 12 to 18 months, with the combined organisation to be based in Seattle under the leadership of Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci.

In making the announcement, Alaska Air Group and Hawaiian Holdings empathised that both brands’ unique cultures would be preserved and built upon.

Functioning on a single operating platform, the two airlines would also benefit from added international connectivity for travellers through airline partners including the oneworld airline alliance, of which both carriers are a part.

Combined, the two airlines currently service around 54.7 million passengers every year.

“This combination is an exciting next step in our collective journey to provide a better travel experience for our guests and expand options for West Coast and Hawai’i travelers,” Minicucci said. 

“We have a longstanding and deep respect for Hawaiian Airlines, for their role as a top employer in Hawai’i, and for how their brand and people carry the warm culture of aloha around the globe. 

“Our two airlines are powered by incredible employees, with 90+ year legacies and values grounded in caring for the special places and people that we serve. 

“I am grateful to the more than 23,000 Alaska Airlines employees who are proud to have served Hawai’i for over 16 years, and we are fully committed to investing in the communities of Hawai’i and maintaining robust neighbour Island service that Hawaiian Airlines travellers have come to expect. 

“We look forward to deepening this stewardship as our airlines come together, while providing unmatched value to customers, employees, communities and owners.”

Alaska Airlines in Kona at Keahole airport, Hawai'i.
Alaska Airlines in Kona at Keahole airport, Hawai’i.

Hawaiian Airlines President and CEO Peter Ingram mirrored Minicucci’s excitement for the venture. 

“Since 1929, Hawaiian Airlines has been an integral part of life in Hawai’i, and together with Alaska Airlines we will be able to deliver more for our guests, employees and the communities that we serve,” he remarked. 

“In Alaska Airlines, we are joining an airline that has long served Hawai’i, and has a complementary network and a shared culture of service. 

“With the additional scale and resources that this transaction with Alaska Airlines brings, we will be able to accelerate investments in our guest experience and technology, while maintaining the Hawaiian Airlines brand.”

Hawaiian Airlines at Los Angeles airport.
Hawaiian Airlines at Los Angeles airport.

The joining of forces between Alaska and Hawaiian could bring significant benefits for travellers on the West Coast and throughout the Hawaiian Islands. According to the carriers, here’s how:

  • Maintaining strong brands: Both Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines will keep their brands intact, ensuring passengers experience the best of both worlds.
  • Expanded product offerings: The merger ensures a diverse range of products catering to various consumer needs.
  • Increased travel options: Passengers will enjoy more choices and improved connectivity across both airlines’ networks, with service to 138 destinations, including 29 international locations in the Americas, Asia, Australia, and the South Pacific.
  • Enhanced service for Hawai’i: Hawai’i residents will benefit from expanded services, tripling the number of nonstop or one-stop destinations accessible from the Islands, while maintaining robust service between the neighbouring islands.
  • Strategic Honolulu hub: Honolulu will become a key hub for Alaska Airlines, facilitating better international connectivity for West Coast travellers throughout the Asia-Pacific region via Hawai’i.
  • Improved loyalty program: The combined loyalty program will offer Hawaiian Airlines’ members enhanced benefits, including global partner perks, elite benefits across the oneworld Alliance, expanded lounge access, and co-brand credit card advantages.

Earlier this year, Hawaiian Airlines revealed its new B787 interior including its Leihōkū Suites.

In July, Alaska Airlines announced plans to become the first US airline to launch an electronic bag tag program in 2023.