Aloha lands first Oakland-Lihue flights

LIHUE — Local pride was in full bloom Friday as Mayor Bryan J. Baptiste and visitor-industry officials greeted the first nonstop flight from the West Coast to Lihue aboard a local carrier.

“I think that’s significant,” Baptiste said about Aloha Airlines being the first local carrier to launch nonstop service between Lihue and the West Coast.

The Aloha flights add seat capacity to what is already projected to be a busy summer, and will help increase lengths of stay by visitors on the flights, Baptiste added.

“I feel honored to have one of our local carriers finally commit to Kauai.”

The flights, which run nonstop between Lihue Airport and Oakland International Airport in San Francisco’s Bay Area Thursday through Monday, are scheduled to end at the end of August, but could be continued if there is enough demand, an Aloha spokesman said. This weekend’s flights to Kauai were all full or nearly full, though the Lihue outbound flights were not as booked.

“We’re very excited about it,” said Nalani Brun, tourism specialist in the county Office of Economic Development. “We’ve been begging for it” for years, she said of either local carrier inaugurating nonstop service to and from Lihue and the West Coast.

With lots of transplanted Hawaiians and Kauaians in the Oakland and San Francisco Bay area, Oakland as a destination makes sense for Aloha, she added.

Most of the travelers, who got VIP treatment at Oakland upon departure, and a Kauai-style welcome with lei, Kauai Kookies, hula dancers and musicians upon arrival here Friday, enjoyed both the convenience of the flight and service onboard, they said.

“It was the most direct,” said James Bischoff of Palo Alto, Calif., a first-time Kauai visitor in the islands for a third time. Staying with his family for 10 days, split between Waimea Plantation Cottages and a vacation-rental home in Princeville, Bischoff and family will take the nonstop back to Oakland at the end of their vacation.

Though the flight was full, Bischoff said the Aloha flight attendants kept everyone happy, and the onboard service was “very good.” They’d fly the Oakland nonstop flight to Lihue again if it fit the family’s schedule, he said.

“It’s easier,” said Cynthia Yardley, here to get married to boyfriend Steve Lambert at ceremonies planned for Pakala. “It was fine,” said Lambert.

Both are San Francisco artists, she the granddaughter of Paul and Maile Yardley of Kalaheo. They will stay with her grandparents in Kalaheo during their three weeks on Kauai.

“I actually like Aloha,” Cynthia Yardley said. “The leis were nice,” Lambert said.

“I liked Aloha a lot. I would definitely do the nonstop all the time,” she said. “Everyone we know is here,” he added.

On the runway at Oakland, fire engines blasted the jet with water, something that impressed Lambert, he said.

“This new, four-times-weekly service from Oakland provides a wonderfully convenient way for travelers to leave the bustling Bay Area behind and fly off in island-style comfort to the clean, green calmness of Kauai,” said Glenn R. Zander, Aloha’s president and chief executive officer.

“Passengers from California tell us that when they escape to the islands, they prefer to avoid the hassle and confusion of the big airports,” Zander added.

Flight 445 departs Oakland at 11:55 a.m. on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, and arrives in Lihue at 2:28 p.m. Flight 446 departs Lihue at 3:35 p.m. on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and arrives in Oakland at 11:42 p.m.

The Boeing 737 plane carries 124 passengers, including 12 in first class.

Passengers in both first class and coach enjoy Hawaii regional cuisine dishes created by Chef Alan Wong, whose Honolulu restaurant has been rated among the top-10 restaurants in the nation by Gourmet magazine.

The June menu on the Lihue-Oakland leg includes pan-roasted chicken breast, shiitake stroganoff and other dishes, while the Oakland-Lihue flights offer an omelet or Hawaiian-style, stuffed chicken breast with kalua pig and lomi tomato relish.

Aloha also offers passengers complimentary mai-tai cocktails, free headsets, movies and audio entertainment, and warm, freshly baked cookies with milk.

Aloha’s outstanding in-flight service was recently recognized as the first-place, Diamond Award winner in international competition conducted by Onboard Services magazine.

For more information, please visit Aloha’s Web site, http://www.alohaairlines.com.

Business Editor Paul C. Curtis can be reached at mailto:pcurtis@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 224).

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