Visitors to Hawaii Island will have fewer choices when United Airlines discontinues its flight between Los Angeles and Hilo International Airport (ITO). United Airlines (United) plans to end the service from January 7th, 2023, taking away the only nonstop flight to the mainland US from Hilo.

United Airlines B737-824 N73283 on runway

Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

United has been operating the direct service from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to Hilo since 2011, apart from a twelve-month pandemic suspension in 2020/21. According to, United first started flights to Hilo in 1967 and, in the 1970s, operated the route with a Boeing 747. With passenger demand declining, United abandoned the airport in the mid-1980s, only for pre-merger Continental Airlines to resurrect the LAX to ITO service in 2011. In 2011 United also started a flight from San Francisco to Hilo, but that was gone after just two years.

Simple Flying contacted United today to get more information on why the Hilo service was being discontinued. The airline sent us this reply:

“We regularly adjust our schedule and continue to be a leader in service to Hawaii from the continental U.S., including offering the most service to Kona of all U.S. carriers”

Kona International Airport (KOA) is the primary airport on the island of Hawaii, or the Big Island, as it’s commonly known. Kona, a 90-minute drive from ITO, is the most popular spot for tourists on the island, with more flights connecting to the US mainland. Some of the airlines active at Kona Airport include United, Southwest Airlines, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines and Air Canada.

Plenty of 737s at United

A recent service was on Saturday when UA1004 departed LAX at 19:35 and arrived at Hilo at 21:32, after a 4:57 flight. The eight-year-old Boeing 737-900ER, registration N63820, then left ITO as UA1706 at 23:11 and arrived in Los Angeles at 06:56 on Sunday morning. United genuinely likes the 737-900ER, with data showing the airline has 136 of that type in their fleet, with an average age of just ten years. It also has twelve 737-900s and thirty-seven 737 MAX 9s, with 29 more MAX 9s on order.

United Airlines Boeing 737-824 N33264 at LAX

Photo: Vincenzo Pace I Simple Flying

Out of its fleet of 874 aircraft, United has 400 737s, with the 737-800s the largest single type at 141 airplanes. It also is operating 23 MAX 8s, with 69 on the way, so it seems renewal of some older 737s is underway. The obvious candidates for replacement are the 51 737-700s at an average age of 22.3 years and the 12 737-900s at 21.1 years. Spreading some of the love around, United also has close to 200 Airbus narrowbodies, split almost equally between the A319-100 and A320-200 aircraft.

For those who prefer the quieter, more authentic travel experience, United’s departure will leave them with two choices. The first is to drive to Kona and connect from there, while the second is to take an inter-island flight to Honolulu or Kahului Airport (OGG) Maui for onward connections. Hawaiian Airlines, Southwest Airlines and Mokulele Airlines are three offering the latter choice.

What do US travelers to Hilo and Hawaii think about losing the direct flight from LAX?


  • United-Airlines-Boeing-777-300(ER)--1

    United Airlines

    IATA/ICAO Code:

    Airline Type:
    Full Service Carrier

    Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Denver International Airport, Guam International Airport, Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport, San Francisco International Airport, Washington Dulles International Airport

    Year Founded:

    Star Alliance

    Scott Kirby

    United States


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