With Qantas having axed its San Francisco flights this weekend, Hawaiian Airlines is looking to take up some of the slack.
The American airline hopes that business travellers heading from Sydney to the western US will prefer to connect in Honolulu rather than Los Angeles, and has a well-planned timetable of connections to ten US cities.
Hawaiian's Sherilyn Robinson, General Manager Sales and Marketing for Australia, explained why Honolulu is better than LAX.
"By flying via Honolulu, travellers can clear US customs quickly, without crowds, as Hawaiian's flights from Australia arrive late morning, outside the peak period," Robinson told Australian Business Traveller.
"Travellers can then connect with afternoon flights to the mainland, with no further formalities to complete when they reach the West Coast," Robinson continued. "They simply land, collect their luggage, and go on their way."
The airline is introducing Airbus A330 planes, initially on routes to Los Angeles and Las Vegas, but currently uses Boeing 767 aircraft.
The 767s have a popular 2-3-2 Economy cabin layout with a 32 inch seat pitch (the space between your seat back and the one in front). That's an inch more than Qantas gives you. The in-flight entertainment options are overhead screens or rentable hand-held digital players for US$20.
In business class, the cabin has a 2-2-2 layout, but with recliners rather than angled lie-flat seats or fully flat beds, which is a downside for the ten-hour overnight flight from Sydney to Honolulu.
But for many business travellers, the option to avoid the hassle-prone, overcrowded and inconvenient LAX airport in Los Angeles may trump a more advanced seat.
Hawaiian has direct same-day connections to three airports in the San Francisco bay area: main airport SFO, plus Silicon Valley airport San Jose and Oakland airport in the East Bay.
The airline also flies direct from Honolulu to Seattle in Washington state, Portland in Oregon, Phoenix in Arizona, Las Vegas in Nevada, and Californian cities Sacramento, San Diego and Los Angeles.
There's a lounge in Honolulu for business class passengers waiting for their connecting flight, but you won't be there long -- connection times are very well scheduled.
Australian Business Traveller made some test bookings for May and June this year, and most connections are at or under two hours eastbound to the US and around an hour westbound to Australia.
That's just about enough time to clear customs and have a drink in the lounge before boarding your onward next flight.
Sydney to San Francisco, for example, is a 2h10m transit, while the return flight is an even more convenient 1h15m.
From Sydney to San Jose (more convenient for the southern end of the SF Bay Area), the connection is 2h15, and exactly an hour westbound from San Jose to Sydney.
Australian travellers can also top up their frequent flyer balances by flying Hawaiian. The airline is a partner in Velocity Rewards, the frequent flyer programme from Virgin Australia (and previously Virgin Blue, V Australia, Pacific Blue and Polynesian Blue).
About John Walton
Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.