June 14th, 2017-Chicago based United Airlines announced plans to increase service to Hawaii from four hubs (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver, and Chicago). The announcement of the additional flights means that United will serve Hawaii with 40 daily flights.
United is the largest carrier from the mainland to Hawaii, just edging out Honolulu based Hawaiian Airlines in the number of seats available per week. While Hawaiian is slightly larger than United from Honolulu (HNL) and Kahului, Maui (OGG), United makes up for it with its service to Kona (KOA), Hilo (ITO), and Lihue (LIH).
From their hub in Los Angeles, United will add two weekly flights to Hilo, which will bring the service to daily. United is the only airline serving Hilo from the mainland. On the other side of Hawai’i, United will add another year round flight to Kona in addition to their current daily morning flight. United operates a second flight to Kona already, but it is only seasonal. To Kahului, United is adding another daily flight to bring their total up to three daily. To Lihue, United will add a second daily flight. Honolulu service will maintain its current level of five daily flights including a 777.
From their biggest West Coast hub in San Francisco, United will add another daily morning flight to Kona bringing the service up to three daily. Lihue will also see the addition of another daily flight to double the number of flights from San Francisco to Lihue. To Kahului, United will add two daily flights to bring their total up to five flights a day from San Francisco, matching the number of daily flights to Honolulu. During peak season, United flies the 777 on the San Francisco to Kahului route. Honolulu still has more seats as they receive two or three 777s a day and a 757-300 from San Francisco while Maui only receives 737s.
From Denver, the flights to the secondary airports (Lihue, Kona, and Kahului) are going from seasonal to year round. Previously, these flights were only flown during the Holiday season and during spring break. All three of these flights will be served by 757-200s. Honolulu service will be maintained on a once daily 777 every day of the year.
From Chicago, United will maintain its daily 777 service to Honolulu, while Kahului (Maui) will see service from a 777 five times a week year round. Currently, the flight to Kahului operates year round on Saturdays only and a couple of times a week during the Holidays and during spring break. Chicago still lacks direct service to Kona like it once had through Kahului on United. American used to fly from Chicago to Honolulu, but gradually cut the service down to a few weeks a year and eventually cut the service entirely. United’s fares from Chicago to Hawaii are typically the most expensive of any airline. United seems to be relying on people paying for convenience with a non-stop to Hawaii as Alaska often has fares up to $300 cheaper than United to the Hawaiian islands with only a stop in Seattle. Delta is also beginning a Chicago to Seattle route which will allow them to better connect Chicagoans to Hawaii by undercutting United’s expensive fares.
The Hawaiian market has expanded since the recession of 2008, with Hawaiian adding more flights from outlying islands to the mainland. In early 2016, Virgin America launched Hawaii service from Los Angeles and San Francisco to Kahului and Honolulu. Earlier this year, they announced the commencement of service to Kona from San Francisco.
Delta has also expanded its presence from the West Coast to Hawaii with the addition of a daily flight from Seattle to all four of the major Hawaiian airports. Delta also flies from Portland and San Francisco to Honolulu in the winter. Delta also recently extended its Minneapolis to Honolulu flight to year round from seasonal.
Hawaiian Airlines is taking delivery of A321NEO aircraft later this year, which will allow them to open up more markets from Hawaii’s secondary airports. United’s additions to Kona and Lihue may be in part preparing for these new routes from Hawaiian by offering flyers more flight options to secondary islands.
In addition to the aforementioned flights, United will continue its daily service to Honolulu from Washington Dulles (IAD), Newark (EWR), and Houston (IAH).