Hawaiian Airlines celebrated 85 years of continuous service in the Islands earlier this month, giving more than 12,000 of its passengers something to chew on.
Passengers received commemorative postcards, stickers and Wrigley’s Doublemint gum, which was actually the first complimentary inner-island treat offered on flights between Honolulu and the neighbor islands more than eight decades ago. The minty stuff was distributed back then largely to help new air travelers relieve ear pressure.
Hawaiian also gave away a number of free short flights, through a recent series of social media contests, aboard the carrier’s original airplane, a 1929 Bellanca CH-300 Pacemaker that was restored in 2009.
“It was originally used as a sightseeing aircraft to get people comfortable with the notion of air travel,” said Peter Ingram, Hawaiian’s executive vice president and chief commercial officer.
Although Ingram hasn’t been up yet in the Bellanca, he was quick to mention that Hawaiian’s president and CEO, Mark Dunkerley, has actually flown the plane himself and said the renovated old aircraft still sparks quite a lot of excitement whenever Hawaiian shows it off at events.
“It’s really been popular,” he added. “And just to see people coming off the airplane after an air tour, during which they saw the island they’ve lived on for their entire life from a brand-new perspective, is always really gratifying.”
Even after 85 years, Hawaiian was breaking some new ground again this summer, debuting nonstop service from Los Angeles and Oakland to Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii and Lihue on Kauai — the first time the carrier has flown its aircraft directly from the U.S. mainland to somewhere other than Honolulu and Maui.
“We were happy with the performances of those routes,” Ingram said. “And in the coming weeks, we should be publishing and finalizing [next year’s] summer schedule, and I think you can expect a return of some of those flights.”
Ingram was also upbeat about the domestic market for the rest of this year and into early 2015, noting that Hawaiian has added a fair amount of Los Angeles and Bay Area capacity.
“This week, in fact, we are inaugurating service from San Francisco to Maui, which will give us service from all three of the Bay Area airports into both Honolulu and Maui,” he said. “That’s been an area of growth and a market we really think is important for us for the long term.”
Hawaiian wasn’t the only carrier adding domestic seats to the Islands earlier this year, however, and Ingram indicated that was good news for travelers considering an Aloha State vacation.
“What you saw during the third quarter was a little bit of a capacity increase year over year in terms of the total seats from North America to Hawaii,” he said. “Certainly our increases in services were a part of that equation, so I think that provided some good pricing opportunities for consumers, [and] we haven’t had any trouble filling the seats we’ve been adding.”
After launching Hawaii’s first-ever scheduled interisland air passenger service in 1929, Hawaiian later became the first Hawaii-based airline to offer scheduled service between the Islands and the U.S. mainland in 1985.