Hawaii By Air

Competition in the Air

Pan Am had been America's sole international airline. But after the war, others were granted overseas routes. United and Northwest Airlines opened routes to Honolulu from mainland west coast cities. With the Pacific coast population growing and airfares falling, more people than ever could reach Hawaii in a single flight.


Pan Am Stratocruiser at HNL

A Pan Am Boeing 377 Stratocruiser at Honolulu International Airport.

Pan Am Stratocruiser in Flight
A Pan Am Stratocruiser over San Francisco Bay heads toward the Pacific.
Pan Am "The Progress of Transportation"

Pan Am presents itself as central to "The Progress of Transportation" in this 1946 image. Pan Am did help shape international air travel by developing airways systems and sponsoring new aircraft. But the six-engine, double-decker airliner shown in the 1946 image remained a flight of fancy.

Pan Am Ticket Holder

To reflect its growing reach and prestige, Pan Am became Pan American World Airways and introduced a new slogan: "World's Most Experienced Airline."

Pan Am Passenger Certificate

A passenger earned this certificate on Pan Am's South Pacific route from Hawaii in 1947. Pan Am adopted and celebrated many nautical traditions, such as crossing the equator.

Pan American World Airlines Label
Northwest Airlines Label
United Airlines Hawaii Baggage Label

Hawaii-bound luggage soon began bearing labels and tags from U.S. airlines other than Pan Am.


United and Northwest

After a ground-breaking legal battle, United Airlines won the right to fly overseas. Both United and Northwest Airlines were granted Pacific routes, ending Pan Am's monopoly.

United opened daily service to Honolulu from San Francisco in 1947 and from Los Angeles in 1950.Northwest opened a transpacific route to Manila via Anchorage, Alaska, in 1947. Then two years later, it began flying to Honolulu from Seattle and Portland.

United Flight Attendents

United flight attendants look forward to their off-duty hours in Hawaii.

Northwest Airlines Route Map

Northwest's northerly route system across the United States provided new avenues to Hawaii.

United Airlines Timetable 1952
United Airlines Timetable 1951
Northwest Airlines Timetable 1950
Northwest Airlines Timetable 1950
Northwest Airlines Timetable 1950s

By the 1950s, airlines offered reduced coach or tourist fares. Flying to Hawaii was not cheap, but it was becoming more affordable.

Northwest Airlines Hawaii Brochure, Cover
Northwest Airlines Hawaii Brochure, Map

As another enticement to travelers, airlines began offering tour packages that included excursions from Oahu to other Hawaiian islands.