Monday, May 22, 2023

Hawaiian Airlines just launched its new route to a destination previously hard to reach for American tourists

Hawaiian Airlines has opened the door to a hard-to-reach South Pacific nation.

On Saturday, the Honolulu-based carrier began once-weekly service to Rarotonga, which is the largest of the Cook Islands. This is the first time Hawaiian has served the country since 1993, but that route was relatively short-lived after only six years of operation.

The carrier will use an Airbus A321neo on the route, departing Honolulu at 4:00 p.m. on Saturdays and arriving at 10:25 p.m. the same day. The nearly six and half hour return flight will depart Rarotonga on Sundays at 11:35 p.m. and arrive back in Hawaii at 5:50 a.m. the next day.

"This service greatly expands travel opportunities between the Cook Islands and the US, thanks to our well-timed connections and robust network, including service between Hawai'i and eight California cities," Hawaiian president and CEO Peter Ingram said in a December press release.

Hawaiian's new route is the only link between the Cook Islands and the US, allowing travelers to more easily reach the isolated nation. Passengers on the first flight were treated to local performers and gate festivities in Honolulu and Rarotonga.

"Our Honolulu-Rarotonga flight bridges Hawaiʻi with another South Pacific neighbor and connects two archipelagos that share Polynesian roots, rich culture, and endless tropical beauty," Hawaiian's vice president of airport operations Lokesh Amaranayak said at Saturday's launch event, reported local Honolulu news outlet khon2.

While the service will now give Americans easier transit to the Cook Islands, Air New Zealand used to connect Rarotonga to Los Angeles once a week using a Boeing 777 but ceased operating the route during the pandemic, per local New Zealand news outlet Stuff.

"As we grow from COVID we are focusing our attention on what we do best – getting customers to, from, and within New Zealand," a company spokesperson told the outlet in June.

In August, the nation's home airline, Air Rarotonga, launched direct flights between Papeete in Tahiti and Rarotonga, reported local publication Enjoy Cook Islands. The carrier also flies domestic routes around the islands.

The service comes after Air Tahiti ended its route between the two nations in 2020 after 13 years. Those traveling to the Cook Islands via Tahiti on Air Rarotonga can take advantage of Delta Air Lines' new nonstop route to Papeete from Los Angeles, which began service on December 17.