Hawaiian Airlines Adding Flights To Cook Islands

Hawaiian Airlines Adding Flights To Cook Islands

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While Hawaiian Airlines has extensive service throughout the South Pacific, the airline will be launching a new route in 2023 that I find to be quite intriguing…

Hawaiian Airlines’ Honolulu to Cook Islands flight

As of May 20, 2023, Hawaiian Airlines will launch a new once weekly flight between Honolulu, Hawaii (HNL), and Rarotonga, Cook Islands (RAR). The flight will operate with the following schedule:

HA495 Honolulu to Rarotonga departing 4:00PM arriving 10:25PM
HA496 Rarotonga to Honolulu departing 11:35PM arriving 5:50AM (+1 day)

Hawaiian Airlines will fly to the Cook Islands

The 2,956-mile flight is blocked at 6hr25min from Honolulu, and 6hr15min to Honolulu. The outbound flight will operate on Saturdays, while the return flight will operate on Sundays (arriving on Mondays).

While the aircraft utilization here isn’t good at all, presumably this is so that the crew can have a 24-hour rest period prior to returning to Honolulu, rather than having to spend a one week layover in Rarotonga.

Hawaiian Airlines will use an Airbus A321neo for the route, featuring 189 seats. This includes 16 business class seats, 44 extra legroom economy seats, and 129 economy class seats.

Hawaiian Airlines A321neo business class seats

Tickets for the new route are expected to go on sale as of December 7, 2022.

This will be the Cook Islands’ link to the United States

Until the start of the pandemic, Air New Zealand operated a nonstop flight between Rarotonga and Los Angeles using a Boeing 777. This was a fifth freedom flight, as you could fly from Auckland to Los Angeles via Rarotonga. Unfortunately that route hasn’t operated since the start of the pandemic, and there are no signs of it returning.

Currently Rarotonga Airport only has service to Auckland (on Air New Zealand and Jetstar), to Papeete (on Air Tahiti), and then Air Rarotonga has flights to some neighboring islands.

So the nonstop flight to Honolulu will be the only link to the United States, and will also offer the easiest connections to the US mainland, as passengers can connect to 15 mainland gateway cities in Honolulu.

Hawaiian Airlines previously flew to the Cook Islands between 1987 and 1993, so this will be the first time in 30 years that the airline operates this route.

Here’s how Hawaiian Airlines CEO Peter Ingram describes this route:

“We are delighted to grow our South Pacific network by offering our guests access to the Cook Islands, an archipelago that shares Hawai‘i’s Polynesian roots and natural beauty. This service greatly expands travel opportunities between the Cook Islands and the United States, thanks to our well-timed connections and robust network, including service between Hawai‘i and eight California cities.”

Meanwhile Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown has stressed the importance of this route to the tourism sector:

“As a 93-year-old destination airline committed to sustainability, Hawaiian Airlines is a perfect partner for the Cook Islands. We welcome this timely announcement from Hawaiian Airlines, as we look to rebuild our tourism industry and strengthen access to our northern hemisphere markets. Inbound tourism is a key economic driver for our nation, and to reach our potential we need access from the larger international markets. Hawaiian’s Honolulu-Rarotonga service connects us to Los Angeles, the Pacific Northwest, and many other large U.S. Mainland cities.”

I would assume Hawaiian Airlines is getting some significant support from the Cook Islands, certainly in terms of airport fees, and maybe even more.

I’ve long been intrigued by the Cook Islands, so it’s cool to see a more direct link to get there from the United States. The islands look stunning, though based on my brief research, I think the hotel situation leaves a bit to be desired (though perhaps that’s also part of the charm of the Cook Islands).

This will be the United States’ only link to the Cook Islands

Bottom line

As of May 2023, Hawaiian Airlines will be adding the Cook Islands to its network, as the airline will launch once weekly flights to Rarotonga. This is the first time in 30 years that the airline has operated this route, and it will be the only nonstop link to the United States since Air New Zealand suspended its Rarotonga to Los Angeles flight.

What do you make of this route? Has anyone been to the Cook Islands, and if so, was it worth a visit?

Conversations (19)
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  1. echino Gold

    Ben, why didn't you mention how to best redeem miles for this flight? It's the reason I clicked to read this post, but there's nothing about miles?

  2. Steven M Guest

    ugh the timings of these flights ... horrific ... nothing worse than arriving in a new country and stuck in an immigration line around midnight

  3. iamhere Guest

    It is an expensive place to get to unless you live in a place that offers service to/from The Islands and is very timely to get to.

  4. Ben Grummel Guest

    Yes I've been to the South Pacific paradise island of Aitutaki for 10 years. Aitutaki won the World Travel Award (WTA) "Oceania's Leading Island Destination 2022" (Bora Bora was in second place after Aitutaki).
    Some Aitutaki information and old photos are on my http://aitutakicookislands.info and the FB Group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/AitutakiCookislands

  5. Kyle Guest

    There's literally a Hyatt points hotel (Pacific Resort Aitutaki) and Aitutaki is fantastic. We just did the day trip from Rarotonga, but it was so good.

  6. Kiwi Guest

    There is a Hyatt affiliated property on Aitutaki close to One Foot Island, home of probably the most famous South Pacific island photo. Back in the early Naughts Aloha Airlines ran flights to Aitutaki direct from HNL

  7. weekendsurfer Guest

    I went back in 2006 and it was awesome. I've never been to the Maldives before and considered French Polynesia, but chose the CI instead and glad I did. I tend to prefer off the beaten path locations (i.e. I hope to visit Christmas Island on Fiji Airlines) and going there was great. Aitutaki, in particular, is what I imagined an idyllic South Pacific atoll to be and it totally met my expectations. No, there...

    I went back in 2006 and it was awesome. I've never been to the Maldives before and considered French Polynesia, but chose the CI instead and glad I did. I tend to prefer off the beaten path locations (i.e. I hope to visit Christmas Island on Fiji Airlines) and going there was great. Aitutaki, in particular, is what I imagined an idyllic South Pacific atoll to be and it totally met my expectations. No, there are no over-the-water bungalows. But it's so low key and the people are super nice. Drove around on a moped and I couldn't have been happier.

    Super stoked about this since I live in Hawaii and would love to go back. I just hope that HA's redemption rates are somewhat reasonable, though I'm not hopeful. :(

  8. MFK Guest

    The hotel situation is perfectly fine there, just not with points, other than perhaps Wyndham rentals. Not sure it was a fifth freedom flight. Cook Islands uses NZ currency, among other ties, but you can find a Cook Islands three dollar note, which is the most beautiful bill I’ve ever seen.

    1. Kiwi Guest

      Cook Islands are part of the realm of NZ, meaning cook islanders are NZ citizens however CI is considered Independent with NZ maintaining full diplomatic relationships with the cooks and NZ both having High Commission(embassy in commonwealth countries)

      CI does rely on NZ for most external affairs and security however. This would be considered a 5th freedom flight as CI maintains its own CAA and external borders with NZ.

  9. J.Fuschillo Guest

    While working for South African Airways I went to the cook islands on a round the word trip I stayed in rarotonga,then went to one of the outer islands (Aitutaki ) had a fabulous time on both, the cook Islands are well worth a visit they are beautiful❤️

  10. FNT Delta Diamond Guest

    It would sure be nice if Delta would expand the ability to earn miles on Hawaiian from just intra-Hawaii flights to the handful of other intra-Pacific flights that Hawaiian offers.

  11. Sean Dauter Guest

    Have been 4 times and is Heaven on Earth. Was disappointed when ANZ dropped this route as it was so accessible from LAX. The lack of large hotels/resorts is what makes CI charming. It is Hawaii from 50 years ago.

  12. Gregor Guest

    I visited the Cook Islands in 2014, one of the greatest trips I ever done. While Rarotonga leaves a lot to desire, neighboring Aitutaki is a real treat! Atiu is very pretty as well but even smaller. The flights to these Islands are incredible and would make for a great flight review, please do it!

  13. Joshua Guest

    The Cook Islands travel website says that Lax to Rar will eventually return, but without any indication of when it will resume.

    Also with the strong relationship between New Zealand and the Cook Islands calling it a 5th freedom flight is a stretch.

  14. Bob Guest

    RAR-LAX was not 5th freedom :rolleyes:

    That's like calling GUM-NRT 5th freedom.

  15. Wes Guest

    Love Rarotonga. Went in 2019 for a week using the now-dead LAX-RAR ANZ flight. You're correct about the hotel situation, but the VRBO situation is quite good. I still miss having a beer on the back porch, a literal stone's throw from the beautiful, coral-filled lagoon. A good bit cheaper than nearby French Polynesia...and in English too!

  16. skimegheath Gold

    The plot thickens...Jetstar has announced direct flights from SYD tp Rarotonga.

  17. JD Guest

    Went there in 2019 -- did the 2 NYE's hack -- flew Air NZ from AKL and after a brief stay continued onto LAX. Rarotonga is ok but Aitutaki is the most beautiful place I have ever seen (even better than Maldives). Yes hotels arent world class but the location & people are.

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Jaymes Guest

Literally?

1
weekendsurfer Guest

I went back in 2006 and it was awesome. I've never been to the Maldives before and considered French Polynesia, but chose the CI instead and glad I did. I tend to prefer off the beaten path locations (i.e. I hope to visit Christmas Island on Fiji Airlines) and going there was great. Aitutaki, in particular, is what I imagined an idyllic South Pacific atoll to be and it totally met my expectations. No, there are no over-the-water bungalows. But it's so low key and the people are super nice. Drove around on a moped and I couldn't have been happier. Super stoked about this since I live in Hawaii and would love to go back. I just hope that HA's redemption rates are somewhat reasonable, though I'm not hopeful. :(

1
J.Fuschillo Guest

While working for South African Airways I went to the cook islands on a round the word trip I stayed in rarotonga,then went to one of the outer islands (Aitutaki ) had a fabulous time on both, the cook Islands are well worth a visit they are beautiful❤️

1
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