Hawaiian Airlines Airbus A330s at the terminal in Honolulu – Photo: Mal Muir | AirlineReporter.com
Getting to New Zealand from the United States is a very limited affair. The only way to get there directly is with Air New Zealand and at some times of the year (around Christmas, especially) capacity becomes limited due to operating only three daily flights (two from LAX, one from SFO).
More recently a new choice was offered to New Zealand; Hawaiian Airlines flying from Honolulu (HNL) to Auckland (AKL). The new flights started in March and they fly three times a week between the two cities.
Using their new Airbus A330-200 aircraft, Hawaiian’s service to the south Pacific allows one-stop service from a number of west coast cities (although all cities, apart from Seattle, require an overnight stay in Honolulu when southbound). After I had flown down to Hawaii from Seattle and spent a brief two hours in the warmth that permeates Honolulu airport, it was time to board another Hawaiian aircraft for my journey to New Zealand.
One of Allegiant Air's Boeing 757s (N902NV) while still in Everett, WA.
The journey from rumors that Allegiant Air was to add Boeing 757-200s during the summer 2010 to their fleet to now receiving ETOPS and Flag Carrier Status status from the Federal Aviation Administration has been long.
Last summer, it was a let down for Allegiant, when the FAA gave them authorization to fly the new aircraft type, but they would not give the airline ETOPS certification to fly over the water to Hawaii. Over the past year, Allegiant has been flying a few 757s on routes in the continental US to gain experience. That experience is finally paying off and starting at the end of this month, the airline will start service to Honolulu, followed by Maui in November. Allegiant’s non-stop service plan to Honolulu:
Las Vegas – begins June 29
Fresno, Calif. – begins June 30
Bellingham, Wash. – begins November 15
Monterey, Calif – begins November 16
Eugene, Ore. – begins November 17
Santa Maria, Calif. – begins November 17
Stockton, Calif. – begins November 18
Allegiant will also offer nonstop air service to Maui from:
Bellingham, Wash. – begins November 14
“This is an important day for Allegiant,” Andrew C. Levy, Allegiant Travel Company President, said. “Obtaining ETOPS and Flag Carrier status not only clears the path for our new service to Hawaii, but also opens up potential international opportunities and will play an important role in our company’s future growth. Our operations team worked long and hard to ensure the completion of this certification and we thank them for their dedication in achieving this important goal.”
Currently, Allegiant operates a fleet of 58 MD-80 aircraft and four Boeing 757-200s. They still have two additional 757s that are being leased. Allegiant plans to put one 757 into service during fourth quarter 2012 and the second first quarter of 2013.
Allegiant is still planning to grow and is looking at other route options. Previously Levy has stated that the airline is looking at the possibility of flying to Canada, Mexico and even South America.
Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-800 about to leave Bellingham for warm Honolulu.
Bellingham is located about an hour and a half north of Seattle and about fourteen miles south of the Canadian border. Over the past few years Belingham International Airport (BLI) has been growing tremendously. Friday was an exciting day for the airport and Alaska Airlines. Even though Alaska and their sister carrier Horizon Air have been flying out of Bellingham to Las Vegas and Seattle for quite sometime now, Alaska has now started non-stop service to Honolulu (HNL). They will fly to Honolulu and back once per day using a Boeing 737-800 aircraft. Alaska started their first flight to Hawaii in 2007 and now has eighth west coast cities connecting to the islands of Hawaii.
“Alaska Airlines is proud to call the Pacific Northwest home. So we’re delighted to offer Bellingham its first-ever nonstop scheduled service to Hawaii,” said Joe Sprague, Alaska Airlines’ vice president of marketing. “Our new Honolulu flights will allow travelers from north of Seattle and the Lower Mainland to take advantage of our low fares, award-winning service and Mileage Plan earning opportunities via an easy-to-access, nearby airport.”
Flying to the state of Alaska has become huge for the airline. I was able to talk to Bob Derse, Regional Manager of Sales and Community Marketing in the Northwest and he explained when he started with Alaska about 30 years ago, 80% of seat miles were flown to and from the state of Alaska. Today there are only about 16% of the seat miles flown to Alaska and 15% being flown to Hawaii. Derse, the other local Alaska personnel and the airport’s personal were all very excited for this flight. Of course all of their excitement was nothing for the full plane load of passengers who were waiting to head to Hawaii. Well, actually it wasn’t a full plane. Due to weight and range issues, the flight will be flown with 10 empty seats. That is a win for passengers, since this means there will be quite a few empty middle seats, making the flight more comfortable.
This guy is loving the idea he is heading to Hawaii!
I asked Christina Aldanese of the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau if Hawaiians thought it odd to fly on planes to the west coast of the United States on an airplane that has “Alaska” on the side. She explained that Hawaii and Alaska states have a sort of sisterhood with both not being a part of the continental United States and the last two to join the union. Many folks going to and coming from the islands truly appreciate the additional flights that Alaska has provided.
Since this was such a big (and fun) deal, Alaska wasn’t going to let this happen with out some special treats. Passengers were greeted by employees in Hawaiian garb and were given a special party bag, food and drink. After going through security, there were Hawaiian decorations and more food and drink at the gate. Before boarding, there was an Hawaiian blessing done with a gentlemen in Hawaiian garb chanting and splashing water from a bowl with what looked like braided seaweed. He started from the gate and went through the plane and back inside. It was quite entertaining to see. While he was doing this there was an Allegiant flight that was de-boarding and I don’t think I have seen so many looks of curiosity from passengers.
There were plenty of smiles coming from people as their boarded the aircraft, knowing in a few hours they would be in Hawaii. Although Alaska is the first airline to fly from Bellingham to Hawaii, they most likely will not be the last. Allegiant has announced they plan to commence flights out of Bellingham, but their ETOPS certification of their new Boeing 757’s have been delayed, causing the flights to be pushed to at least 2012. This will give Alaska time to market their new route and start to build a loyalty for passengers flying from northern Washington and southern British Columbia to Honolulu.
To help you celebrate, Alaska is offering special discounted tickets for quite sometime. You can fly to HNL from BLI for just $149 each way — hmm, maybe I can take advantage of that.
* My photos of the Alaska Airlines event
* Video from KOMO4 News