More Airlift from the West Coast Equals an Improved Economy for Hawaii

article top
BY KATIE MINKUS, R(BIC) – In his presentations around the state to various local Realtor Boards and Associations last fall, local economist Paul Brewbaker educated us about the concept of “airlift” and how critically important the number of airplane seats per week that land at our airports, especially on the neighbor islands, is to our local economy. 

Many people don’t realize the recession started in Hawaii four to six months prior to the rest of the world, when we lost two huge airlines carrying people from the West Coast to Hawaii—Aloha Airlines and ATA Airlines—in three days’ time. We’ve been watching this airlift now returning to the islands over the past few months. More airline seats = more visitors to the Big Island = healthier local economy.

Just last week, Alaska Airlines announced daily flight between both Oakland (OAK) and San Jose, CA (SJC) to Kahului, Maui (OGG) starting June 5, 2011. This increase in daily service to Maui means 35 flights a week from the Bay Area and Sacramento, CA. to Hawaii.


Beginning June 9th, Continental will fly one round-trip flight each Saturday from Los Angeles (LAX) and San Francisco (SFO) direct to Hilo, using Boeing 737-800 jets.

And what are the rumors about Southwest? Apparently, Southwest Airlines has contracted for twenty Boeing 737-800 jets that will be equipped to fly to Hawaii, something industry watchers see as a sign Southwest is at last ready to fly to the islands. Although the first delivery is more than a year away, and Southwest would have to “break” their successful business model to fly to Hawaii, the local coconut wireless is already juiced up about the possibility of one of the country’s favorite airlines crossing the seas to its 50th state.

Of course, no conversation about airlift in Hawaii can be complete without mentioning Hawaiian Airlines and how committed they’ve been to growth and expansion, both internationally and locally. (Mark Dunkerley or Peter Ingram, if you’re reading this—please, please, please add a direct flight from Kona to Lihue once a day. Please?)

I’ve noticed the brand spanking new gorgeous Airbus jets being flown from Honolulu (HNL) to LAX and Las Vegas (LAS) and, believe me, a layover at the Honolulu Airport is well worth the luxurious ride east on these new planes, not to mention the warm Aloha that Hawaiian Airlines offers on all its flights (and in some of its mainland airports, like Phoenix) and look for the special $25 upgrade to a better seat in coach for Pualani members.

I’m a big fan of Hawaiian Airlines personally—I love keeping the dollars I spend traveling “local,” and they keep Hawaii with me from airport to airport, and that’s a good thing in my world, especially when traveling all over the world.
More articles like this at