Mokulele Airlines now services Hana, Maui. // © 2013 Mokulele Airlines
For Debra Stern of Peak Travel in San Jose, Calif., Maui has always been an easy sell. But lately, with the recent rise of nonstop air service from major and secondary U.S. West Coast cities, her Maui business has really gotten a lift.
“Hawaiian and Alaska airlines have both added direct flights to Maui from all three Bay Area airports, giving people more choices, which is important,” said Stern. “These carriers are helping to keep fares competitive. Clients who previously stayed away from Maui are reconsidering now that they can fly nonstop.”
Among the most recent developments, Hawaiian Airlines has increased its daily flights to Maui’s Kahului Airport from Oakland and San Jose, Calif. In addition, Hawaiian announced that for 10 weeks during the summer of 2013, the carrier will be offering twice-daily nonstop trips between Los Angeles and Kahului, a move that will add 34,000 air seats to the Valley Isle during the peak travel season.
Maureen Dinnocenzo of Above and Beyond Travel in Arnold, Calif., has seen a strong surge in the number of clients flying to Maui since the addition of the new nonstop flights from the Bay Area.
“I have clients who live in the central valley and Sierra Nevada Mountain area who are traveling to Oakland to catch flights to Maui due to the convenience of the direct service,” said Dinnocenzo. “Multigenerational families are meeting on Maui because they like the ease of nonstop travel there.”
For Dinnocenzo, the added service is a clear response to increased demand.
“I send many clients to the Hawaiian Islands, but I must say that for 2012, far more people requested Maui than any other Hawaiian island,” she said.
Allegiant Airlines is doing its own part to boost air seat capacity from the western U.S. by connecting Hawaii to secondary cities. In November 2012, it began nonstop service between Bellingham, Wash., and Kahului.
Meanwhile, in December 2012, Alaska Airlines launched a seasonal route connecting Bellingham to Kahului four times each week. Running through April 14, 2013, the service appeals to Pacific Northwest residents from the Vancouver, B.C., and Seattle areas.
Maui Visitors Bureau executive director Terryl Vencl anticipates more growth in flights to her island primarily because the economy is improving and people are yearning to travel again.
“We have seen an increase in visitors wanting to come to Maui,” said Vencl. “Fortunately, we have a strong brand and image in the marketplace, and we expect to keep Maui top of mind through our many marketing avenues including promotions, agent training, advertising, public relations, social media and a strong web presence.
“Keeping the demand high for Maui is paramount not only for maintaining flights, but for creating visitor demand, which will hopefully lead to new flights,” Vencl said.
More transpacific routes aren’t the only good news for Maui airlift. Beginning in 2013, a newly established turboprop operation created by Hawaiian Holdings will begin flying to the islands of Molokai and Lanai. The planes will seat 44 to 50 passengers.
“These are the ideal aircraft for service to the less populated islands in our state,” said Mark Dunkerley, president of Hawaiian Holdings, which is the parent company of Hawaiian Airlines.
Also, in a partnership with Travaasa Experiential Resorts, Mokulele Airlines now operates twice-daily flights on a nine-seat Cessna from Kahului to tiny Hana Airport. It’s the first scheduled air service to the rural east Maui community in more than a decade. Ticket prices start at $59 each way. Travaasa Hana, Maui, an upscale resort, is offering free roundtrip flights for guests who book a three-night, all-inclusive package.
“Mokulele’s new flights to and from Kahului and Hana have been well received,” said Mokulele Airlines president Ron Hansen. “Passenger response has been very positive, and we believe this route is destined to be successful for Mokulele and Travaasa.”