United's newest Hawaii route just took off from Orange County
If you're looking for an island escape, United has you covered with 21 routes to Hawaii this summer.
The latest of those began Thursday (May 6), when the Chicago-based launched its newest Hawaii route that connects Orange County, California, to Honolulu.
The daily service is being operated by a 126-seat Boeing 737-700, taking off at 8:30 a.m. local time and arriving in Honolulu (HNL) at 11:30 a.m. The return flight departs at 12:50 p.m. and arrives in California at 9:10 p.m.
Want more airline-specific news? Sign up for TPG’s free new biweekly Aviation newsletter!
United Flight 411 left Orange County at 8:38 a.m. local time on Thursday. The carrier hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony, which was attended by a handful of local United and county executives. Polynesian dancers greeted customers as they boarded the jet.
Festive goodie bags were distributed as well, which included a first flight certificate, hand sanitizer, a mask and plastic lei.
“This is the first new route we’ve launched from Orange County since before the pandemic, so it’s an exciting day for us and our customers,” Patrick Quayle, United’s vice president of international network and alliances, said in a statement. “We know everyone is dreaming of summer getaways and we want United to be their top choice for the most seamless travel experience to Hawaii," he continued.
Flyers based in Southern California looking for a summer escape will likely appreciate the new United connection. Orange County hasn't had nonstop Hawaii service in nearly nine years, per Cirium schedules.
Turns out, United was the last carrier to operate flights in the market, technically making United's new flight a route resumption.
United inherited two legacy Continental routes, one from SNA to HNL and another from SNA to Maui/Kahului (OGG) when the carriers merged in 2010. United stopped the Maui flight in January 2012, followed by the Honolulu one six months later.
Now, the carrier is relaunching the flight in the midst of a pandemic that's dealt a devastating blow to the industry. Many airlines, United included, have added a host of point-to-point routes bypassing traditional hubs in a bid to capture the limited amount of traffic flying these days.
The Orange County to Honolulu connection technically fits the bill — neither airport is a United hub. However, unlike the carrier's new seasonal point-to-point routes, this one is slated to operate year-round.
United seems to betting that there's enough demand to warrant a daily nonstop in the market.
More: United’s return to New York-JFK has been delayed a second time
Department of Transportation data analyzed by Cirium showed roughly 50 daily passengers flying between SNA and Hawaii in 2019, paying an average fare of $260. Of course, that's much less than the capacity of a 737, but with most international countries closed and travelers looking for outdoor-focused destinations, perhaps United can make it work. Plus, the route may appeal to flyers based in the greater Los Angeles metro area who live closer to SNA than LAX.
In addition to Orange County, United is doubling down on Hawaii from two of its hubs. First announced in September 2020, the carrier has reaffirmed its commitment to start flying two brand-new domestic long-haul routes, one from Chicago (ORD) to Kona (KOA) and another from Newark (EWR) to Maui.
Both flights will begin on June 3 and will be operated five times weekly on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
Additionally, United is ramping up two of its flagship Hawaii routes this summer. Service from both Newark and Washington/Dulles (IAD) to Honolulu was suspended due to the pandemic, but both have seen notable boosts recently.
The Dulles flight resumed on May 6 with three weekly flights, while the Newark route returned in March with Saturday-only service. It increased to three weekly flights in April and four in May. Both EWR-HNL and IAD-HNL will be daily as of June 3.
More: Here’s everything visitors to Hawaii need to knowThur
The boost in Hawaii flying comes as the state is once again open to tourism. Travelers looking to avoid the mandatory 10-day quarantine need to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken from a state-approved provider within 72 hours of departure of the final leg to Hawaii.
United's "Travel-Ready Center" and CLEAR's new Health Pass are two mobile-friendly tools that aim to streamline the pandemic-era travel experience. For Hawaii flights, travelers can book eligible tests through the United portal, and then upload them to the Health Pass to generate a QR code that acts as a pre-approval to skip the quarantine.