LIHUE — Even before Wendy Haydu and her family arrived Sunday on Kauai, the Sacramento, Calif., visitors already had a few adventures planned for their first trip to the island.
An all-terrain vehicle tour, surfing lessons and a tubing excursion were just a few of the activities that she and her family had on their list of things to do during their seven-day vacation — their fifth trip to Hawaii but their first to Kauai.
What the family didn’t plan on, however, was the elaborate welcome they received upon leaving Oakland, Calif., and arriving in Lihue, where hula dancers and greeters with orchid leis were ready, on each end, to meet the more than 200 passengers on Hawaiian Airlines’ first trans-Pacific flight from the Mainland to Kauai.
Having a direct flight to Kauai, Haydu said, was particularly important because it was the first time her 7-year-old daughter Taryn had traveled anywhere.
“It was nice to have a direct flight with no layovers, so it was very convenient from that standpoint,” Haydu said after she and her family arrived in Lihue. “It was great — they had Hawaiian dancers this morning in Oakland and when we got here. We all got two leis, so it was perfect. It was amazing.”
Fellow Sacramento resident Justin Sanders, who is visiting Kauai for the first time with his family, agreed.
“We always try to take direct flights,” Sanders said. “It’s just more convenient. We go to Maui a lot and there’s a direct flight to Maui.”
For some tourism industry officials, the new non-stop route to Kauai marks a large step forward both for Hawaiian Airlines and the island as a whole.
“This is a day I have been waiting many years for, and it is historic, as it is the first time Hawaiian Airlines has a Mainland direct flight to Kauai,” said Kauai Visitors Bureau Executive Director Sue Kanoho, who helped greet the new arrivals Sunday at the airport. “I’m thrilled and actually had chicken skin as the flight landed and approached the gate. I hope this is the beginning of a new era for Hawaiian Airlines and Lihue Airport.”
Five other U.S.-based global carriers — US Airways, United Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Delta Airlines and American Airlines — currently operate non-stop services between Lihue and several Mainland destinations, including Los Angeles, Seattle, San Diego and Phoenix.
The non-stop Hawaiian Airlines route between Oakland and Lihue, according to airline officials based in Honolulu, will be offered three days a week — on Saturday, Tuesday and Thursday — for the next 10 weeks until Aug. 15 and will resume the following summer.
The Honolulu-based airline will also kick off a seasonal non-stop route between Los Angeles and Lihue for 12 weeks beginning June 26. That service will be offered four days a week on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday and is scheduled to end on Sept. 19.
Both routes, according to Hawaiian Airlines figures, will add more than 20,000 seats to Kauai from two critical Mainland markets that have seen a “robust demand for travel to the Hawaiian Islands.”
Of the estimated 253,343 U.S. residents who have visited Kauai within the first four months of this year, nearly 47 percent of them, or 118,050 people, were from West Coast states, including Alaska, California, Oregon and Washington state, according to preliminary Hawaii Tourism Authority data.
“Depending on its popularity and success, we may see it go further than just seasonal service,” said Katherine Medeiros, Hawaiian Airlines station manager at Lihue Airport. “We’re all excited. It’s the first for our island and the first for Hawaiian Airlines, so we look forward to continuing that as well.”