Daily nonstop air service between Los Angeles and Hilo resumed Thursday after some 20 years, via United Airlines, on flights operated by Continental.
The merged airlines will debut an additional, weekly flight from San Francisco to Hilo on Saturday.
The captain on the inaugural flight was Hilo native Lance Lau. The flight left Los Angeles after a departure ceremony that included a Hawaiian blessing from recording artist Robert Cazimero and a live broadcast by Hilo radio personality DJ Gumby.
Its arrival, meanwhile, was to be heralded with a water curtain upon landing — and lei greetings and Hawaiian entertainment for deplaning passengers.
Both routes will be served by 160-seat 737-800 aircraft that include 16 first-class and 144 economy-class seats.
"This is what the island needs," said George Applegate, executive director of the Big Island Visitors Bureau.
The daily United Airlines flights, operated by Continental Airlines, depart Los Angeles at 5 p.m. local time and arrive at Hilo International Airport at 7:40 p.m., with the return flight departing Hilo at 8:55 p.m. and arriving at LAX at 5:15 a.m.
The Saturday San Francisco-to-Hilo flights will depart the City by the Bay at 4:20 p.m., arriving in Hilo at 6:40 p.m., then depart Hilo at 9:20 p.m. for a 5:20 a.m. Sunday arrival in San Francisco.
United and Continental Airlines have served Hawaii "for more than six decades," Jim Compton, executive vice president and chief revenue officer of United Continental Holdings Inc., said in a statement. "This new nonstop service provides our customers with more extensive access to the islands."
The Hawaii Tourism Authority estimates the flights could bring 40,000 additional visitors to Hilo and generate $50.6 million in direct visitor spending for Hawaii’s largest island.