Hilo “United” with the “Continental” Mainland Again… Mainland Flights Resume to Hilo

Tonight marked the inaugural “United Airlines” Flight into Hilo, Hawaii in more than 28 years and the local media was invited onto the tarmac of the Hilo Airport to capture pictures of the arrival of the plane.

The plane arrived a few minutes early and caught many of the photographers off guard.  I caught this picture as it was coming in and then realized my camera settings were off…

As the plane careened down the tarmac it was greeted by a couple of firetrucks that showered it with water.  Thanks Devany for taking a better picture then what I was able to snap at the time!

The plane gets showered by two fire trucks. (Courtesy of Devany Vickery-Davidson)

Of course Mayor Kenoi was on hand to welcome the first folks off the plane!

Also on hand was  Councilmen Fred Blas and Donald Ikeda.

There were many moving moments throughout the night as folks saw their loved ones for the first time in a long time…

For me personally the most touching moment was watching this grandfather break down in tears holding his grandson for the first time ever!

The pilot of this inaugural flight was local boy Lance Lau from the Big Island himself!

Also on hand was Miss Aloha Hawaii, Tatiana Boteilho, to greet the folks getting off the plane.

Some other facts about these flights:

HTA says the flights have the potential to bring 40,000 additional visitors to the island, and could generate $50.6 million in direct visitor spending annually.

The airlines folks are calling the new Hilo flights “United Airlines, operated by Continental Airlines” … although in the beginning, they were being flagged as Continental. As you probably know, the airlines merged awhile ago.

  Los Angeles – Hilo (daily)                                Hilo – Los Angeles (daily)







5:00 p.m.

7:40 p.m.


8:55 p.m.

5:15 a.m.*


 San Francisco – Hilo (Saturday only)      Hilo – San Francisco (Saturday only)








4:20 p.m.

6:40 p.m.


9:20 p.m.

5:20 a.m.*


                 *Arrival time is the next day.


A new nonstop flight from Los Angeles to Hilo aboard United Airlines (operated by Continental Airlines) touched down early tonight, bringing rousing cheers of aloha, and later, tears of joy, as the plane landed and passengers disembarked into Hilo’s balmy evening.

It’s Hilo’s first direct flight from Los Angeles since 1983, some 28 years ago. On Sat., June 11, the newly merged United Airlines /Continental Airlines will start a new nonstop from San Francisco to Hilo, Saturdays only, arriving at 6:40 p.m. That will be the first nonstop to Hilo from the Bay Area since ATA went out of business in 2008.

The 737-800 aircraft from Los Angeles was full, and its 160 passengers landed about 10 minutes earlier than the anticipated 7:40 p.m. arrival. They were greeted at first with a dramatic arching “water curtain” sprayed over the taxiing aircraft by fire trucks, then upon deplaning, passengers were adorned with orchid lei at Gate 3. As they rode the escalator down towards baggage claim, Hawaiian musicians and hula dancers greeted them on the ground floor, amidst a mighty round of applause. The Big Island Visitors Bureau and its supporters presented each passenger with a glossy red bag filled with Hilo goodies, including Big Island Candies, Mauna Loa Macadamia Nuts, and more. Hilo Coffee Mill provided steaming hot cups of their special dark roast 100 percent Puna coffee as passengers waited for their luggage. Mayor Billy Kenoi, Miss Aloha Hawaii, Tatiana Boteilho, and Big Island Visitors Bureau Executive Director were among the local dignitaries greeting arriving passengers.

A few familiar faces arrived in Hilo, including pilot Lance Lau of Hilo, and revered Hawaiian musician Robert Cazimero. But when military wife Chanda Reyes and her young daughter Maya greeted Navy Lt. Carlos Reyes at the bottom of the escalator, there weren’t many dry eyes in the arrival area.  The family has been separated for six months while Lt. Reyes, a helicopter pilot, serves in Afghanistan.

“The Navy gave me this chance to meet my family anywhere for a reunion, and we chose Hilo. We’re from Colorado, and Hilo seems like a beautiful halfway spot between home and Afghanistan. This new flight made it easy to happen,” Lt. Reyes said, his arms woven tightly around his wife and baby girl. The family was headed to accommodations in lush, oceanfront Kapoho in Coastal Puna about a 40-minute drive from Hilo, but couldn’t help but linger and enjoy the talented hula performances at the airport.

Other families chatting to media around the baggage claim planned to visit Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, ‘Akaka Falls, ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center, and downtown Hilo. Others planned to spend some time in Hilo then head to West Hawai‘i, like the Dunlop family, who are booked in Waikoloa for the latter part of their vacation. With the new flights, visitors can fly into Hilo and out of Kona, or vice versa, and take in more of Hawai‘i, the Big Island, while saving on driving time.

George Applegate, BIVB’s Executive Director recalled that after the loss of ATA’s nonstop from Oakland in 2008, no one thought another nonstop would happen for Hilo, but gave kudos to Mayor Kenoi for staying positive, and proactive to bring in another mainland/Hilo flight

“These flights don’t materialize like a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow,” Applegate said. “There is a lot of strategic planning, convincing and commitment that does into it. I want to acknowledge the thoughtful and determined effort that Mayor Kenoi and his team put into making these flights a reality. And now it looks like we might have our pot of gold, near the end of Rainbow Falls you might say,” Applegate said.

For Hilo Coffee Mill co-owner Jeanette Baysa, she hopes that Hilo passengers will drop by Hilo Coffee Mill, which is along the Volcano Heritage Corridor, and sample the delicious, award-winning East Hawai‘i coffees before venturing to Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, and Kailua-Kona.

“This way, we can introduce visitors to a well rounded Hawaiian coffee experience,” she said.

For more about Hilo town and outlying areas go to Why Hilo.

The return flights to the mainland depart Hilo as follows: daily at 8:55 p.m. from Hilo to Los Angeles, and 9:20 p.m. from Hilo to San Francisco (Saturdays only).

Feel free to click on the pictures below for a better view:

3 Responses

  1. a great time was had by all!

  2. oh and I must say, that’s a pretty clever title, Damon!

  3. I tear up at the new grandpa and the Navy family reunited photos. Sniff!

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