HONOLULU (KHON2) — Many airlines went into crisis mode when the coronavirus pandemic hit, suspending flights and laying off thousands of workers. However, some airlines, like Hawaiian Airlines are still moving forward, expanding flights to new cities with hopes to come out of the crisis stronger.

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Hawaiian Airlines is adding three new non-stop flights to the mainland.

Starting in March, Hawaiian Airlines will begin service from Honolulu to Orlando, Florida and Ontario, California. Then in April, the company will launch flights between Honolulu and Austin, Texas. There will also be a non-stop flight added from Maui to Long Beach, California.

“This gives us an opportunity to broaden our network at a time where the depth and some of our traditional markets may not be back to normal for a little while yet,” said Peter Ingram, Hawaiian Airlines president and CEO.

Ingram said he hopes these new flights will ramp up traffic, not only for travel to the islands, but also for Hawaii residents looking for a vacation.

“The common theme among these routes, is that these are all places where there has been a growth in a population and greater opportunities for travel over the long term.”

Peter Ingram, Hawaiian Airlines President and CEO

Aviation Expert Peter Forman said for an airline, new routes can often be appealing, even in a pandemic.

“Orlando, it’s a huge tourism hub, and a lot of flights come in, even from Europe to Orlando because of the Disney World and all that’s there,” said Forman. “So, connections can take place that bring people to Hawaii. So, you go from one tourism destination to the other.”

He said the new routes to Long Beach and Ontario would also provide an advantage.

“People want convenience in Southern California. The driving is so hectic, that they want to depart from the nearest airport, so that gives Hawaiian (Airlines) an advantage,” said Forman.

With the prospects of a COVID-19 vaccine distribution being not too far away, he expects more people will be ready to travel.

“Once the vaccines come out, people want to travel again, and the businesses is going to come rushing back,” said Forman. “Particularly the retirees. They are tired of being in their houses. They want to come out and go to Hawaii.”

After a difficult year for the airline industry, Ingram said, Hawaiian Airlines is ready to grow and take on more opportunities in 2021.

“For the first time, was a sense of optimism and it’s good to be talking about growth again after a period where we’ve been talking about, you know, cushioning the blow of low demand and reducing the size of our operation,” said Ingram.

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