New Hilo flights a hit with locals, Europeans

By Howard Dicus - bio | email

HONOLULU AND HILO (HawaiiNewsNow) - The first United Airlines service from the West Coast to Hilo in nearly 30 years has been popular with travelers, a bright spot in an otherwise so-so June tourism picture.

"The flight is doing very well," said George Applegate, executive director of the Big Island Visitors Bureau. "As expected they have a very strong pent-up local demand to begin with."

Introductory fares were low, and United adopted an "open jaws" policy which allows travelers to fly in via Hilo and go home via Kona, which encourage traverlers to extend their usual Kona stays by adding a couple days on the volcano side of the island.

"Bookings on the new Hilo flights are in line with our expectations," said Mary Clark, a spokesman for United Continental Holdings in Chicago. The service has been provided by the Continental side of the house.

One unexpected benefit of the new daily service, which usually starts in Los Angeles but also includes a Saturday run from San Francisco, has been a number of European visitors, who start in London and change planes in California to fly to Hilo and visit the volcano.

"Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a World Heritage Attraction," Applegate said. "These are bucket list attractions."

June arrivals by air statewide, while on track to top April or May, are down almost 2 percent from the same month last year. Big Island arrivals, however, are up more than 4 percent.

Arrivals are up even more to Kauai, which in recently months has gotten more direct airlift from West Coast.

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