American Airlines’ longest Hawaii flight just got a big schedule boost

Apr 12, 2021

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The demand for Hawaii flights is seemingly at a pandemic-era high.

Over the weekend, American Airlines extended the schedule for its Charlotte (CLT) to Honolulu (HNL) flight, giving flyers over three more months of daily, nonstop service on that route. It was originally supposed to run seasonally from May 6 through Sept. 7, but now it will operate through Jan. 3, 2022, per Cirium timetables.

American flies the 273-seat Boeing 777-200 on the 10-hour, 4,678-mile hop. The aircraft feature 37 business-class pods, 24 premium economy recliners and 212 coach seats. These jets have two types of business-class seats — and it’s nearly impossible to know which one you’ll get until a day or two before the flight.

Notably, American’s longest of over a dozen Hawaii routes will run through the holidays, giving East Coast-based vacationers more one-stop choices to get to the Aloha state. In October 2020, Hawaii began allowing mainland visitors to present a recent negative COVID-19 test in lieu of a mandated ten-day quarantine.

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The eased entry policy has caused a surge in demand from pandemic-weary travelers looking for a beachside escape. Most international destinations remain closed to Americans, so Hawaii’s appeal is likely even stronger nowadays.

In response, most major U.S. airlines have launched or expanded service to the islands, and some visitors, including TPG’s Clint Henderson, have noted that “Hawaii is again packed with tourists.”

American’s top-notch Boeing 777 biz cabin (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

But American’s CLT to HNL boost isn’t just about matching supply with demand. It also renews confidence in this route that failed years ago.

The Charlotte-to-Honolulu market has an interesting history. Prior to its merger with American Airlines, US Airways began serving the route on Dec. 17, 2009. Three-and-a-half months later, in April 2010, the airline said it would suspend the flights at the end of the summer travel season, largely because of high fuel prices. The service lasted nine months, until Sept. 8. 

Despite US Airways’ strong East Coast presence (and Charlotte hub) in 2009, it was a surprisingly quick decision to drop the service just months after it started.

More route history: American will give Charlotte-Honolulu a second try

Ten years later, and some wondered if American’s CLT-HNL run would fare better than it did after the prior attempt by US Airways.

However, thanks to the pandemic, today’s network planning strategy looks much different.

For one, jet fuel prices are hovering at $1.68 a gallon, compared to around $2 a gallon 10 years ago, according to data from Airlines for America.

There are also many more spare airplanes. With long-haul travel largely off-limits, American has plenty of unused wide-body jets. Instead of flying them across the Atlantic, the carrier has been deploying them an increasing number of domestic routes, like Dallas/Fort Worth to Anchorage, Miami to Boston and now, Charlotte to Honolulu.

More widebodies: American Airlines schedules wide-body jets on 3 unexpected domestic routes

As such, the opportunity cost of trying new routes is minimal. American’s vice president of network planning, Brian Znotins recently explained to TPG that “the cost of experimentation these days is very low.”

While American might be experimenting with another stab at CLT to HNL, it appears that the second time just might be the charm. Coupled with the increased demand and low opportunity cost, AA isn’t just relaunching the service — it’s extending it, too.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

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