Virgin America announced last week that it will be offering its first flight to Hawaii in the fall.
A daily round trip between San Francisco and Honolulu will begin Nov. 2, and a route between San Francisco and Kahului (on the island of Maui) will be launched Dec. 3. CEO David Cush has also indicated that flights to Hawaii out of Los Angeles will likely be added in 2016.
“This announcement is exciting news for Hawaii,” the Hawaii Tourism Authority said in a statement regarding the plans. “We have been working together with Virgin America for more than five years to make these new flights and their entry into our market a reality.”
Tourism is a major part of the Hawaiian economy, from exploring the ocean to tours throughout Hawaii, travelers from near and far come to enjoy all of the benefits of the beautiful state. And the HTA believes additional capacity provided by Virgin America will encourage more travelers from not only the West Coast, but also the East Coast — since Virgin America has an extensive nationwide network.
“We estimate that flights will generate $138.6 million in visitor spending and $14.8 million in tax revenue for the state on an annual basis,” the HTA statement continued.
The new flights will be facilitated by Airbus A320 jets Virgin America anticipates receiving later in 2015. The planes will be equipped with fuel-saving features for more efficient operation on these long flights.
Cush also said that the company believes the new routes will expand the popularity of its flyer-rewards program, Elevate.
Virgin America’s move won’t be without its challenges, however, the experts say. Hawaiian Airlines operates daily flights between San Francisco and both Honolulu and Kahului. On the San Francisco-Honolulu route, Virgin America will also face competition from United and Delta.
And in trying to capture bay-area flyers, Virgin America will also have to look at nearby airports; both Hawaiian and Alaska Airlines offer nonstops to Honolulu and Maui from the San Jose and Oakland airports.
All told, the HTA expects scheduled airlift to Hawaii to exceed 11.8 million seats by the end of 2015, an increase of 6% in just one year.