Island Flights Lift Spirits

Western agents sing praises of added airlift to Hawaii

By: Marty Wentzel

Western agents who grumbled at the beginning of 2002 about limited flights to Hawaii now are finding it relatively simple to book their clients on planes to the islands, thanks to an increase in airlift in the past 10 months.

“There’s been a real upswing in the availability of seats to Hawaii and, believe me, it’s not because demand is down,” said Candy Monarrez of Candy’s Carefree Travel in Modesto, Calif. “We have more flights and more airports to choose from.”

Many of Monarrez’s clients are taking advantage of Hawaiian Airlines’ new daily nonstop flights between Sacramento and Honolulu, which have been available since June 7.

Also on June 7, Hawaiian launched daily nonstop service between Ontario and Honolulu, a big plus for Bob Romano of AMX/Canyon Crest Travel in Riverside, Calif.

“We’re located 25 minutes from the Ontario airport,” Romano said. “I can offer my clients the option of not having to drive to LAX. That level of convenience can make the difference between someone booking Hawaii or not.”

Hawaiian’s new daily nonstop service to Honolulu from Phoenix, available since Oct. 11, has had a positive effect on Jim Kroll’s business at Desert Travel in Casa Grande, a one-hour drive from Phoenix.

“Clients on their way to Hawaii used to have to collect their luggage and change carriers in Los Angeles,” Kroll said. “Now they get on that big bird in Phoenix, and it’s smooth sailing all the way to Honolulu.”

Kroll’s Hawaii business is holding up well, he said. “We almost can’t keep up with it.”

Hawaiian wasn’t the only carrier adding service to Hawaii in 2002. United, which launched nonstop flights between Denver and Honolulu in mid-February, is adding a Denver-Kona route on Dec. 15.

While it is cutting service from San Francisco to Kona and Maui from Jan. 7 to Feb. 12, a United spokesman said the service will resume after Feb. 12. In June 2002, Aloha Airlines commenced daily nonstop flights to Honolulu from Burbank, Calif., and Vancouver, B.C.

And on Oct. 28, Continental started flying new, larger 777 aircraft on one of its two daily nonstops between Houston and Honolulu.

On the wholesaler front, Pleasant Holidays once again will offer weekly nonstop flights from Los Angeles and San Francisco to Kauai beginning April 12 and running through the summer of 2003.

One region that would like more airlift to Hawaii is the Pacific Northwest, where just two carriers Hawaiian and Northwest fly direct to Honolulu. Although Hawaiian introduced daily nonstop service from Seattle to Maui in March, increased demand for Hawaii is keeping seat availability tight, according to Steve Pomranz of AAA Washington in Bellevue, Wash.

“Airlift isn’t a significant problem for us yet, but based on our trend of steady double-digit growth in Hawaii business in the past year, I believe there will be a need for more lift out of the Northwest in the coming year,” Pomranz said.