First nonstop flight from Phoenix lands

The first-ever nonstop commercial flight to Lihu’e Airport by any airline originating in a place other than California arrived fashionably late at Lihu’e Airport yesterday afternoon.

The US Airways Flight 946 Boeing 757-200 carried 190 passengers and ushered in convenient service from an affluent state and city, Kaua’i visitor-industry officials said.

“Any increase in inventory is good, (Phoenix) is a market we haven’t had before,” and it has the potential to be a good, large, lucrative market for the island, said Sue Kanoho, executive director of the Kaua’i Visitors Bureau.

“We’ll be watching it closely to see how it delivers for the summer business,” and will also work to get the word out that the flights are available, she added.

“We’re thrilled that US Airways has placed its faith in Kaua’i as a premier travel destination,” Kanoho said.

“Their customers will fall in love with Kaua’i’s incredibly lush and beautiful environment and outdoor activities, and the ease of having nonstop service will make a vacation here more popular than ever.”

“I congratulate US Airways on their inaugural flight,” said Mayor Bryan J. Baptiste, who was among the dignitaries on hand at Lihu’e Airport yesterday.

“I think that direct flights by this carrier further solidify Kaua’i’s position in the travel marketplace.”

Kaua’i Visitors Bureau leaders and industry partners made presentations to travel agents in Tempe and Tucson earlier this week, highlighting Kaua’i’s vacation experiences, array of activities, and unique selling points, Kanoho said.

Along with KVB representatives, officials from Castle Resorts & Hotels, Resort Quest Hawaii, Kauai Beach Hotel & Resort and Aloha Beach Resort-Kauai made the presentations.

At each presentation, a free roundtrip was awarded, with airfare on US Airways, and accommodations at Kaua’i Marriott Resort & Beach Club, Courtyard by Marriott Kauai at Waipouli Beach, Princeville Resort, Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa, and Sheraton Kauai Resort.

The inaugural flight arrived to fanfare, lei for the first arriving passengers, a hula show, live Hawaiian music, speeches by dignitaries, a blessing of the craft by the Rev. Wayne Vidinha of Ke Akua Mana Church in Kapa’a, and the Hawaiian blessing of a rain shower.

“The response to our Hawai’i service that we started in December 2005 has been tremendous, and we are excited to initiate our second phase of service,” said Scott Kirby, US Airways executive vice president of sales and marketing.

“Hawai’i is a very popular destination for our customers, and we are very pleased to offer more service to the places they love to travel,” Kirby said in a press release.

After nearly eight hours on the ground yesterday, the first nonstop commercial flight from Lihu’e to Phoenix, Flight 947, departed on time at 11:55 p.m.

With new Phoenix-Kona daily nonstop flights beginning today, and a second Phoenix-Honolulu nonstop added, US Airways now has five daily, nonstop flights between Phoenix and four islands in Hawai’i.

US Airways and America West leaders recently merged to create the fifth-largest domestic airline in the country, employing 35,000 aviation professionals.

US Airways, US Airways Shuttle and US Airways Express employees operate approximately 3,700 flights per day, and serve more than 230 communities in the U.S., Canada, Europe, the Caribbean and Latin America.

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