By BRIAN PERRY, City Editor
POSTED: March 27, 2010
KAHULUI – Maui tourism got a bit of a lift Friday when Alaska Airlines began daily service between Kahului and Sacramento, Calif.
More than 150 passengers on the airline’s first flight of its new direct connection between Maui and the West Coast were greeted at Kahului Airport with lei, hula dancers and Hawaiian music.
Sacramento resident Meredith Santos said the five-hour flight was “wonderful.”
She and her husband, Freddy, came to enjoy spring break with their sons, ages 6 and 3-1/2. With the direct service, she said, it would be more likely that her family would vacation on Maui.
Rich Labate, a resident of Sacramento suburb El Dorado Hills, said he was disappointed when Aloha Airlines shut down in the spring of 2008 and stopped doing direct flights to Maui. He said it’s more convenient for his family to fly direct.
“This is great, to bypass Honolulu,” he said after arriving with his wife, Jacqueline, and two teenage daughters.
Sacramento resident Juliette Luong came to Maui for a week during the spring break with her husband, Eric Van Ostrand, a daughter and two sons. Friday marked the seventh consecutive year the couple’s family has vacationed for a week during spring break on the Valley Isle.
The couple also was disappointed to lose the direct service provided by Aloha and needed to fly to Maui via Honolulu last year.
“We were so happy when we learned that Alaska’s flying nonstop,” she said.
Cheryl Marcell, deputy director of marketing and public relations with the Sacramento County Airport System, said there’s a significant amount of demand for Hawaii and, in particular, Maui, travel from residents of the Sacramento area.
Sacramento airport officials approached Alaska Airlines about establishing a direct flight to Maui after Aloha shut down, and they were “very excited” when the air carrier agreed to fly direct to the Valley Isle, she said.
California residents who’ve already visited Oahu tend to favor Maui in order to have a “tropical, lush” vacation, she said.
For Maui residents thinking about flying to Sacramento, the airport there is about a 40-minute drive to Napa Valley wine country; 60 minutes to Reno, Nev.; 90 minutes to Lake Tahoe, Calif.; and two to 2 hours to San Francisco, depending on traffic, Marcell said.
Steve Jarvis, Alaska Airlines’ vice president of marketing, said the airlines’ new direct Maui connection increases the carrier’s offerings between Hawaii and West Coast locations. Aside from Sacramento, those destinations are Oakland and San Jose in California, Portland, Ore., Seattle and Anchorage, he said.
Alaska Airlines already has daily direct Maui connections with Portland and Seattle, four days a week with Oakland (Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays) and three days a week with San Jose (Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays). The airline is scheduled to add a second daily flight to Seattle on June 10.
The new daily Alaska Airlines flight to Kahului leaves Sacramento at 8:15 a.m. and is scheduled to arrive on Maui at 10:50 a.m., although it came in about 20 minutes early Friday. Through April 10, the airline departs Kahului at 11:50 a.m. and arrives in Sacramento around 8 p.m. (Beginning April 11, the airline leaves Maui at 1:50 p.m. and gets in to Sacramento at approximately 10 p.m.)
Each flight accommodates 16 passengers in first class and 141 in the main cabin.