Pacific Wings launches late-night flights

By: Karla Aronson

Each night, dozens of flights arrive at Honolulu International Airport, and for some passengers, the island of Oahu is not their final destination. These visitors may have to spend the first night of their vacation in a hotel waiting to transfer to a neighboring island the next day. Pacific Wings a small-aircraft, interisland carrier will provide another option.

The Maui-based airline is launching late-night service between Honolulu and Kahului, Maui, in December, as well as between Honolulu and Kona, Big Island. Direct flights will be scheduled between 8 p.m. and 1 a.m., as frequently as on the hour.

The airline offered the late-night service last year during the winter holiday season but wasn’t equipped to handle the flights’ popularity. However, the airline has recently taken a big step toward the majors.

In August, Pacific Wings became a member of Worldspan, the same GDS reservations system used by Northwest Airlines. Pacific Wings converted its outdated manual ticketing system which still functioned with carbon copies, multiple triplicates and punch-hole machines to a fully electronic system.

“It’s like overnight we took a quantum leap,” said Pacific Wings president Greg Kahlstorf.

Coinciding with the launch of the late-night flights, Pacific Wings is also launching service between Honolulu and Kapalua, West Maui, with eight flights daily. (Only Island Air offers the route now.)

Perhaps most appealing to travel agents is Pacific Wings’ 10 percent no-cap commission rate, far exceeding other airlines, and Pacific Wings offers a 12 percent override on sales more than $40,000. In addition, the airline joined ARC (Airline Reporting Company), the private clearinghouse settlement system for ticket purchases. And next month the company’s Web site will feature a page dedicated to its travel agency programs.

Agents can now book from actual inventory, receive instant confirmation, make seat assignments and automatically receive notification of any schedule changes to reaccommodate passengers.

Agents will also be able

to e-ticket Pacific Wings through any major GDS including Sabre, Axess or Galileo and Pacific Wings is negotiating with airlines for reciprocal miles-awards programs.

Kahlstorf is also planning a trip to meet with agents.

“I’m trying to visit them personally,” he said. “Travel agents add that value,” for the specialized destination tourist market.

While Pacific Wings may be catching up with other airlines’ technology, unlike other carriers, Pacific Wings selects routes for their scenic value such as the passage over the 1,600-foot cliffs of Kalaupapa. Whereas commercial airlines fly at 20,000 feet or higher, Pacific Wings flies at about 10,000 feet or below. Every window is gallery class, foot-long in width and height, to provide clearer views.

In fact, the 30-year-old company, founded in 1974 in Las Vegas as Air Nevada, has its roots in providing scenic air tours in the Grand Canyon. Company owners relocated the airlines to Hawaii in 1998.

The airline’s fleet of six propeller-driven, twin-engine planes (manufactured in 2003 or later) seat 14, but the airline limits passengers to nine. The interiors of the planes have been upgraded as part of the new promotions.

As for checking in, Pacific Wings allows passengers to bypass the main terminals’ security lines. The airline requires just a 30-minute advance check-in at the commuter or interisland terminals adjacent to the airports’ main terminals.

Although the company adheres to the same security guidelines, “only nine people are going to be before you in line,” Kahlstorf said.

Even passengers who think they may not be able to stomach a small cabin air flight, might be surprised how much they appreciate the thrill and spectacle of flying closer to the ground and the magnificent coastlines of Hawaii.

“Everybody brings a camera,” Kahlstorf said. “We are selling an experience as well as transportation.”

Pacific Wings connects to nine airports: Honolulu on Oahu; Kona, Hilo and Kamuela on the Big Island; Kahului, Hana and Kapalua on Maui; Lanai City on Lanai; and Kalaupapa on Molokai.

Pacific Wings, primarily a commuter airline, operates 65-70 scheduled flights each day, with additional charter flights across Hawaii, excluding Kauai. Prices start at $85, one-way.


Pacific Wings
Airline code: LW