Hilo gets West Coast flights today for first time in 28 years - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Hilo gets West Coast flights today for first time in 28 years

By Howard Dicus - bio | email

HILO and HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - United Airlines will make good its promise to resume service to Hilo when a Boeing 737-800 lands at Hilo International Airport at 7:40 p.m. Thursday.

United stopped flying to Hilo in 1983 and in the nearly three decades since then Hilo has had no direct connections from the mainland except when ATA provided service for two years leading up to its permanent shutdown in 2008.

At a time when summer airlift to Hawaii is down more than 2 percent from year-ago levels, the new flights are not merely welcome but important to the state tourism recovery.

In a twist created by corporate merger of United and Continental Airlines, the new service will actually be provided by the Continental side of the house, with Hilo native Lance Lau serving as captain of the flight crew.

The return flight to Los Angeles was scheduled to take off at 8:55 p.m. Thursday. United said the service will be daily with one flight, on Saturday, originating in San Francisco instead of Los Angeles.

United Continental CEO Jeff Smisek, who also came from Continental, told shareholders Wednesday the two carriers will have fully integrated their services by the end year, though the Air Line Pilots Association replied that efforts to merge the pilot contracts of the two airlines were actually behind schedule.

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