Major airlines are increasing direct service between Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport and the U.S. mainland.
With the landing of Flight 1724 Wednesday evening, United Airlines resumed nonstop service between San Francisco International Airport and the Keahole Point airport. The carrier will operate the route four times per week until Aug. 3, when like other airlines, it will ramp up service, a company spokesperson said.
Effective Aug. 3, after the state will allow out-of-state travelers who‘ve tested negative for COVID-19 to enter Hawaii without having to quarantine for two weeks, United Airlines plans to increase the frequency of the route, offering the flight twice daily, the spokesperson said.
In addition, daily service between Los Angeles and four times per week service between Denver and Kona will start again. Thrice-weekly service between San Francisco and Hilo International Airport will also resume that day.
United Airlines’ resumption of service marked the first nonstop flight to Kona from the mainland to start again since late March when flights ceased due to the coronavirus pandemic and two-week quarantine requirement for travelers. Delta Airlines maintained service to Kona from Los Angeles four times a week throughout the time.
The Hawaii Tourism Authority reported Wednesday that 87 people arrived at Kona International Airport on Tuesday via direct flights to the island either Delta or a chartered flight. That figure included 37 returning residents, 27 visitors, five people relocating to the area and 11 crew members.
During the month of May, a total of 1,257 people flew to Hawaii Island with more than half of those coming to Kona, according to data released Monday by the Hawaii Tourism Authority. Last year, the Big Island welcomed more than 138,500 during May.
Those figures should increase as other major carriers confirmed Wednesday resumption and in some cases new service to the Hawaiian Islands.
Hawaiian Airlines resumed service between Honolulu and Portland on Wednesday, and plans to add once-daily service to San Diego and Sacramento, California, on July 15.
Effective Aug. 1, the carrier will reinstate nonstop service between Honolulu and Boston, New York, Las Vegas, Phoenix, San Jose, California, and Oakland, California, according to a statement from the company. In addition, Hawaiian Airlines will resume a direct flight between Kona and Los Angeles and increase interisland flights.
Though Hawaiian’s service to international markets remains suspended, weekly service between Honolulu and American Samoa is set to resume Aug. 6.
“The layered safety measures put in place to protect the health of our local communities promise to make travel to and from Hawaii more accessible than in recent months,” said Peter Ingram, president and CEO of Hawaiian Airlines. “We look forward to welcoming onboard guests who support and observe protocols in place for responsible travel, including our visitors and kamaaina reconnecting with family and friends on the U.S. mainland.”
Southwest Airlines will also resume flights effective Aug. 1, a company spokesman said late Wednesday.
“On that day, we’ll return to our full pre-COVID schedule for the islands,” Brad Hawkins said, noting that new daily nonstop service between San Diego and Honolulu will also begin.
Kona will have a daily flight from/to Kahului, four daily flights from/to Honolulu and once daily service to/from both San Jose and Oakland, California, he said. Hilo will have four daily flights to/from Honolulu.
Service will also be increased to six times daily in each direction between Honolulu and Kahului, and Southwest will resume flying four times daily in each direction between Honolulu and Lihue, Kauai, he said.
“We’re hopeful for the support that Southwest’s everyday value and flexibility will play in the recovery ahead for all of us,” Hawkins said.
American Airlines, which last flew out of Kona on March 25, said it planned to resume flights in August, but did not provide additional details.
Attempts to reach Alaska Airlines and Delta Airlines for an update from each carrier on plans for Hawaii service were unsuccessful as of press-time Wednesday. Ross Birch, executive director of the Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau, and the state Department of Transportation also did not respond.