United resumes nonstop service to Kona

Major airlines are increasing direct service between Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport and the continental United States.

With Flight 1724 landing on Wednesday night, United Airlines resumed nonstop service between San Francisco International Airport and Keahole Point Airport. The carrier will operate the route four times a week until August 3, when, like other airlines, it will increase service, a company spokesperson said.

Starting August 3, after the state allows travelers from other states who have tested negative for COVID-19 to enter Hawaii without having to be quarantined for two weeks, United Airlines plans to increase the frequency of the route, offering the flight twice a day, the spokesman said.

In addition, daily service between Los Angeles and service four times a week between Denver and Kona will begin again. Service three times a week between San Francisco and Hilo International Airport will also resume that day.

The resumption of United Airlines service marked the first nonstop flight to Kona from the mainland to start again since the end of March when flights ceased due to the coronavirus pandemic and the two-week quarantine requirement for travelers. Delta Airlines maintained service to Kona from Los Angeles four times a week throughout.

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 number included 37 returning residents, 27 visitors, five people who moved to the area, and 11 crew members.

During the month of May, a total of 1,257 people flew to the island of Hawaii, and more than half of them went 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 numbers are expected to rise as other major operators confirmed Wednesday’s resumption and, in some cases, a new service to the Hawaiian Islands.

Hawaiian Airlines resumed service between Honolulu and Portland on Wednesday, and plans to add daily service to San Diego and Sacramento, California on July 15.

Starting August 1, the carrier will restore nonstop service between Honolulu and Boston, New York, Las Vegas, Phoenix, San Jose, California and Oakland, California, according to a company statement. Additionally, Hawaiian Airlines will resume a direct flight between Kona and Los Angeles and increase inter-island flights.

Although Hawaiian service to international markets remains suspended, weekly service between Honolulu and American Samoa will resume on August 6.

“Layered security measures 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 respect established protocols for responsible travel, including our visitors and kamaaina who reconnect with family and friends on the continental United States.”

Southwest Airlines will also resume flights starting August 1, a company spokesman said Wednesday night.

“On that day, we will return to our full pre-COVID schedule for the islands,” said Brad Hawkins, noting that a new nonstop daily service between San Diego and Honolulu will also begin.

Kona will have one daily flight to / from Kahului, four daily flights to / from Honolulu and once a day service from / to San Jose and Oakland, California, he said. Hilo will have four daily flights to / from Honolulu.

Service will also be increased to six times a day in each direction between Honolulu and Kahului, and Southwest will continue to fly four times a day in each direction between Honolulu and Lihue, Kauai, he said.

“We are hopeful of the support that Southwest’s daily value and flexibility will play in the recovery that awaits us all,” Hawkins said.

American Airlines, which last left Kona on March 25, said it planned to resume flights in August, but did not provide additional details.

Attempts to contact Alaska Airlines and Delta Airlines to obtain an update from each airline 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.