Airlines building up service ahead of Aloha State's reopening

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Hawaii is planning to reopen to tourism on Oct. 15.
Hawaii is planning to reopen to tourism on Oct. 15.

Airlines will begin ramping up service to Hawaii as the state reopens to visitors on Oct. 15.

According to schedule information provided by the flight data analytics company OAG, carriers are scheduled to connect a combined 29 city pairs between Hawaii and the U.S. mainland during the week of Oct. 12. That compares to the 17 mainland-to-Hawaii routes they were serving the week of Oct. 5. The buildup is slated to reach 41 routes by the week of Nov. 2 and 44 by Thanksgiving week, three weeks later.

Seat capacity between Hawaii and the mainland is slated to increase at an even faster clip, more than tripling from 38,000 the week of Oct. 5 to 118,000 by Thanksgiving week.  

The ramp-up will coincide with the long-awaited Oct. 15 end of Hawaii's mandatory 14-day quarantine for incoming travelers. Instead, visitors will be required to show proof upon entry of a negative Covid-19 test administered within 72 hours of departure.

OAG senior analyst John Grant cautions that airlines likely will actually operate fewer flights than they currently have scheduled. Such adjustments have been routine during the pandemic. And overall, forward-looking bookings at U.S. airlines are "awful" compared with last year, he said.

Even with the buildup that begins Oct. 15, the carriers are still scheduled to offer just 28.9% of their October 2019 seat capacity to Hawaii this October.

Still, American, Alaska, Delta, Hawaiian, Southwest and United have each announced upcoming route relaunches. And most of those carriers have also announced initiatives to assist travelers to Hawaii in obtaining the required Covid-19 tests.

Hawaiian relaunched Honolulu-Las Vegas service on Oct. 1 and will return to Oakland and San Jose, Calif., and Phoenix, all from Honolulu, on Nov. 1. By Nov. 18, the carrier plans to have added Maui-Los Angeles and to have increased frequencies on all six of its pre-October mainland routes, which serve Portland, Ore.; Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and Sacramento, Calif.; and Seattle, all from Honolulu.

Southwest, which has been operating only Honolulu-San Jose and Honolulu-Oakland due to Hawaii's entry restrictions, is set to resume its eight other prepandemic routes between the mainland and Hawaii by the week of Nov. 2, OAG schedules show. The carrier will also launch Honolulu-San Diego service for the first time on Nov. 4.

Alaska plans a full return to twice-daily flights between Seattle and each of Honolulu, Maui, Kauai and the Big Island of Hawaii on Oct. 15. By Nov. 20, the carrier plans to resume Hawaii service from five other West Coast cities.

The Big Three airlines will also join the act. Among other routes, United intends to resume San Francisco-Kauai flights on Oct. 15 while adding frequencies from San Francisco to Maui and the Big Island. Overall, the carrier will resume eight Hawaii routes this month.

American will bring back a combined six routes, connecting Phoenix with Honolulu, Maui and the Big Island; Dallas with Maui; and Los Angeles with Maui and Kauai.

And Delta expects to up its Hawaii offering in November to 14 routes from the four it is offering in October, with holiday service on four additional routes, said spokesman Drake Castaneda. Atlanta, Detroit, Salt Lake City and Minneapolis will join Los Angeles and Seattle in having at least some Hawaii service from the carrier.

American, United, Hawaiian and Alaska have also announced testing options for its Hawaii-bound travelers.

Hawaiian customers can order a $150 mail-in saliva test.

Alaska will partner with the provider Carbon Health to offer rapid Covid-19 tests at pop-up clinics in Hawaii gateway cities, starting with a downtown Seattle site on Oct. 12.

American will offer on-site rapid testing at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport in partnership with the provider CareNow.

And United will offer rapid testing at San Francisco Airport in partnership with the provider GoHealth for $250.

United and American are also coordinating at-home test options.

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