Taking Off 5-12-2006

Big Island’s popularity improves its flight paths

By: Marty Wentzel

If there’s any doubt that demand for a destination affects air service, look no further than the Big Island for reassurance. A surge in popularity for Hawaii’s largest and southernmost destination has triggered an uptick in direct flights from the mainland to what tourism officials are calling Hawaii’s Island of Adventure.

“Travel agents should note that the Big Island saw a record-breaking overall 16.1 percent increase in visitors in 2005,” said George Applegate executive director of the Big Island Visitors Bureau. “With the new airlift from major carriers, it’s becoming easier than ever before for people to discover Hawaii’s Big Island.

“It’s an honor to have the opportunity to introduce our beautiful island to even more visitors,” he added.

The latest carrier to join the Big Island bandwagon is ATA Airlines. Beginning April 27, ATA began nonstop service from Oakland, Calif., to Hilo International Airport on the island’s eastern coast. Marking the first direct route from the mainland to Hilo in more than 20 years, the flight provides an appealing gateway for clients who want easy access to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and the Kohala Coast.

The daily ATA link departs Oakland at 7:35 p.m., and lands in Hilo at 9:50 p.m. The return trip leaves Hilo at 8:20 a.m., and touches down in Oakland at 4:15 p.m.

On March 2 of this year, US Airways/America West Airlines introduced a nonstop flight from Phoenix to Kona International Airport at Keahole, on the west side of the Big Island. With a passenger capacity of 190, the new flight offers Phoenix residents a faster, more convenient way to visit the diverse destination.

“Phoenix is an important visitor base for Hawaii’s Big Island,” said Applegate. “It’s exciting to have such a direct link to the southwestern United States.”

The daily flight departs Phoenix at 10:25 a.m., landing in Kona at 2:12 p.m. The return trip lifts off from Kona at 10:59 p.m., arriving in Phoenix at 7:48 a.m. the following day.

In December of 2005, Delta Airlines launched daily direct transit between Salt Lake City and Kona. The flight, which originates in Atlanta, leaves the Utah hub at 12:22 p.m., and arrives in Kona at 2:40 p.m., giving clients time to check into their lodgings before enjoying their first mai tai and sunset dinner. Passengers who board in Atlanta don’t have to change planes during the stop in Salt Lake City. The return flight leaves Kona at 10:50 p.m., which means travelers can enjoy a full day on the Big Island before heading home.

Other airlines have been doing their part to make the trip to the Big Island as painless as possible. Since Dec. 3, 2005, Air Canada has provided direct Saturday service between Vancouver, B.C., and Kona. The 5:15 p.m. departure whisks clients to the tropics by 8:35 p.m. For the return redeye, a 9:50 p.m. take-off results in a 6:25 a.m. next-day arrival in Vancouver.

On a daily basis, Aloha Airlines flies direct to Kona out of John Wayne airport in Orange County, Calif. Lifting off in the morning, clients get to Kona by lunchtime, while the midday return lands in Orange County in the early evening. Travelers flying from Oakland can book Aloha’s direct flights to Kona on Sunday, Monday, Friday and Saturday with return service on Sunday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

American Airlines runs a daily flight between Los Angeles and Kona, leaving LAX at 5:50 p.m., and arriving on the island by 8:30 p.m., with an overnight return schedule. For travel during June, July and August, American Airlines is adding one daily flight between the two hubs to accommodate the surge of summer travelers.

United Airlines keeps Kona busy with daily nonstops from San Francisco and Los Angeles. On Saturdays, United offers nonstop roundtrips between Denver and Kona.


All flight dates and times are subject to change, so be sure to check toll-free numbers and Web sites for the latest information on direct service between the mainland and the Big Island.

Air Canada

Aloha Airlines

American Airlines

ATA Airlines

Delta Airlines

Northwest Airlines

United Airlines

US Airways/America West