Vegas to HNL inaugural flight: 9th island businesses eager for Hawaii travel restrictions to loosen

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HONOLULU (KHON2) — Summer travel has increased dramatically and so have flights to the Hawaiian Islands.

Southwest Airlines added three new destinations to and from Hawaii including non-stop flights from Las Vegas and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

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The first nonstop Las Vegas flight landed Sunday afternoon and ninth island residents and businesses said they’re excited for June 15 when vaccinated residents can travel even more.

“The planes are completely full right now. It’s not very difficult to sell Las Vegas or Hawaii and going between the two; it’s a no brainer,” said Southwest Airlines Executive Vice President Andrew Watterson.

“Las Vegas is really busy right now. They’ve reopened their tourism economy and we’re so pleased to connect the Hawaiian Islands with the ninth island in Las Vegas. This is something we can offer to the Kama’aina,” he continued.

Southwest is adding two nonstop flights between Las Vegas and Honolulu and Las Vegas and Kahului, with flights for Kona and Lihue coming later this fall.

The airline is also adding nonstop flights from Phoenix and LAX.

Las Vegas residents said they’re excited to have more options when flying back to Hawaii to see family and friends.  

“It’s a perfect fit. There’s a lot of people from Hawaii that come to Las Vegas. We are considered the ninth island. We currently have about 55,000 to 60,000 people from Hawaii that live there,” said Dorinda Puanani Keola Burnet, a former Hawaii resident, Kamehameha schools alum and current Las Vegas resident who blessed the flight in Las Vegas Sunday afternoon.

“That is a good thing for all of us to take advantage of all the things coming up for our inter-mountain travel from Hawaii to Las Vegas,” she continued.

Many said they have June 15 marked on their calendar and are excited to welcome back more Hawaii residents who, if vaccinated, will be able to travel home without restrictions for the first time in over a year.

“After June 15, you can come and go much more easily. It makes it a great time to shake off the pandemic fever and enjoy yourself in Vegas,” Watterson added.

Vegas businesses are also happy to hear travel restrictions are easing up in Hawaii.

“Most of our customers are from Hawaii so that is a big impact for us,” explained Kyrce Higa, whose family owns Las Vegas Jerkys.

“We’ve been waiting for this for like, ever since the vaccine started,” she said laughing. “Yeah, we’re definitely looking forward to that. Hopefully, everybody can get the vaccine,” said her mother Karen.

The two women said they miss all of their Hawaii customers.

“We get lots of phone orders and people saying they’re going to wait until they lift that [restriction], and then they’re going to be coming to Las Vegas. So, we’re looking forward to that,” Kyrce added.

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