Hawaiian Airlines to add new nonstop flights from Orlando, Austin in the spring

Although the coronavirus surge continues to worsen in the U.S., Hawaiian Airlines is giving travelers from Texas and Florida something to look forward to in the spring.

The Honolulu-based carrier announced Tuesday that it is adding nonstop flights from Orlando and Austin in March and April, respectively.

The Orlando International Airport route will begin March 11, with two weekly flights to Honolulu aboard a 278-seat Airbus A330 aircraft. It will be Hawaiian’s third-longest route after Boston and New York. 

“We are thrilled to announce that Central Florida residents can look forward to nonstop service to Hawaii, and that Orlando International Airport is officially Florida’s connection to the Aloha State,” said Phil Brown, CEO of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority. “This new service represents a significant investment that will strengthen economic, leisure and cultural bonds between two of the country’s top tourism destinations.”

Twice-weekly flights from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport to Honolulu start April 21. Those routes will also be on A330s.

“Even though this year has had unprecedented impacts to the airline and airport industries, Austin-Bergstrom International Airport remains committed to providing the best service we can to our passengers,” said Jacqueline Yaft, the CEO of Austin-Bergstrom International. “We know that many Central Texans will be eager to travel next year and we are excited to offer an easy and convenient way for them to explore Hawaii.”

In addition, Hawaiian says it’s adding four flights per week from Ontario, California, (located about 40 minutes east of Los Angeles) to Honolulu, beginning March 16. The carrier will also begin daily nonstop flights between Long Beach, California, and Kahului, Maui on March 9.

Mainland travelers have only been able to visit Hawaii for about two months. The Aloha State imposed a strict quarantine rule for out-of-state visitors during the onset of the pandemic this spring and only relaxed it in mid-October, when it rolled out a program allowing visitors to bypass the isolation period with a negative test. 

The new system hasn’t been perfect: A Hawaiian couple was arrested last weekend after arriving home because they knowingly boarded a flight from San Francisco to Kauai despite testing positive and being ordered to isolate.

With COVID-19 infection rates at record levels, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised U.S. residents not to travel over the Christmas, Hanukkah or New Year’s holidays this year. 

“Cases are rising. Hospitalizations are increasing, Deaths are increasing. We need to try to bend the curve, stop this exponential increase,” explained Dr. Henry Walke, the CDC’s COVID-19 incident manager.

For those who decide to travel,  the CDC is now recommending travelers get tested for COVID-19 before and after their trips.

The CDC recommends a test one to three days before travel and another three to five days after travel, plus reducing nonessential activities for seven days after travel, Walke said. Those who do not get tested should reduce nonessential activities for 10 days after travel, the agency said.

In the past seven days alone, there have been more than 1.4 million new cases and more than 15,600 deaths, according to USA TODAY data. To date, the U.S. has reported more than 15.1 million cases and 286,200 deaths.

U.S. states are currently scrambling to devise a plan to distribute COVID-19 vaccines. The first batches, expected next week, are expected to go to healthcare workers. Vulnerable people are the next in line. The general population is not expected to start receiving the vaccine until April, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert.

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