WestJet to begin daily Vancouver-Kona flights in December

Canada-based WestJet is adding more flights to Kona, starting in December.

The company, which added service to Hawaii several years ago, will increase flights from four times weekly to daily beginning Dec. 12, Media Relations Adviser Brie Ogle said Wednesday.

“The demand is incredible,” Ogle said. “Every year we’ve been able to grow a little bit. … These are some of Western Canada’s most popular routes, and these routes are being beefed up because of their popularity year after year.”

Kona and Kauai are particularly hot destinations for the Vancouver-based direct flights, Ogle said. The company will increase its flights to Kauai from three times a week to daily Dec. 14. Ogle noted that the long winters and cool springs and falls encourage Canadians in the western half of the country to make their way to Vancouver for the direct flights to the islands. WestJet has flights twice daily to Honolulu and Maui.

“We’ve got a core of guests who are very enthusiastic” about coming to Hawaii, Ogle added.

On WestJet’s website, travelers praised West Hawaii, noting their appreciation for everything from the sights to the weather, calling it a “no hassle” place to visit.

“The problem with the Big Island is (there is) too much to get through in one week,” one commenter wrote.

Canadian visitors statewide spent $42.3 million from January to May of this year, Big Island Visitors Bureau Executive Director Ross Birch said. That’s up from the $40.8 million Canadian tourists spent in the state during the same five months of 2012.

“Our Canadian customers are some of our best customers,” Birch said. “They’ve become a very steady market.”

WestJet also offers its customers a chance to preclear U.S. customs in Vancouver, company officials said. That means the increased flight arrivals can’t help Big Island officials make an argument to bring back customs inspections at the airport, Birch said.

BIVB does extensive marketing in Canada, he added.

A search of flight prices about a month after the daily flights will begin to Kona show round-trip tickets ranging in price from $590 U.S. dollars to about $1,025 U.S. dollars. The prices are slightly higher in Canadian currency.

Birch said by adding daily flights, WestJet is able to begin offering more competitive ticket prices.

The company flies Boeing NextGen 737-800s, with a capacity of 166 passengers, most often on its Hawaiian route, Ogle said.

She did not have exact figures on how many passengers arrive annually on the flights.