Continental Reshapes Its LA Operation, Expands Hawai’i

Update 10/9 @1041a: Nevermind. Continental just uses the 737-800 as a placeholder for future schedules. These can be expected to change in the next month or so. The Hawai’i stuff is still valid. Sorry about that.

It looks like Continental has decided to join in the Hawai’i sweepstakes with some interesting new west coast routes, including the first Orange County – Honolulu flight since Aloha folded. But while those are interesting, I’m more intrigued by the remaking they’re giving to their LA operation.

Today, LAX is a jumble of airplanes ranging from 737-800s and 737-900s to 757-200s and 757-300s. Beginning March 7, LAX will be an all-737 operation. In fact, everything will be a 737-800 except for the two flights to Honolulu which will be on 737-900s. Not only are the planes shrinking, but they’re also cutting frequencies. Houston, Newark, and Cleveland will each see one less flight per day from LAX.

Continental's 737-800 loves LAX

Currently, by my count there are six Continental airplanes that sit overnight at LAX. That will drop to four with the new schedule. Part of that is thanks to a new nonstop flight to Maui. The airplane leaves LAX at 505p and returns on a redeye just in time to start the day as it would have were it sitting on the ground.

The Honolulu operations are even more interesting. Right now, Honolulu is operated by a 737-800, and it sits there for a long time. It arrives at 1245p and then doesn’t come back to LAX until 830p. But starting in March, there will be two daily flights on the 737-900. One will leave LAX at 1020a and arrive Honolulu at 120p. But instead of waiting all day, it will turn right around and come back to LAX at 150p. The other will leave LAX at 155p and arrive Honolulu at 440p. That will just turn around on the 825p redeye. It appears these airplanes will just go around in circles between the two cities.

Meanwhile, down the road in Orange County, Continental is resurrecting the flight to Honolulu that last operated before Aloha went belly up. Like Aloha, they’ll use a 737-700. This is a pure utilization flight. Right now, there are two 737-700s that come in at 428p and 732p. One of those turns around for the 915p redeye to Newark but the other stays overnight. So, if the 428p sits overnight today, it can now do the 520p departure to Honolulu and return at 745a the next day ready to resume its normal schedule.

This flight is only operating 4 days a week for now but they have plans to expand to daily.

So why are all these moves being made? Something tells me it’s related to Continental joining the Star Alliance. Now, Continental will be able to fill those Hawai’i flights with feed from United and United Express in LAX. And in Orange County, they’ll be able to tap into that loyal Mileage Plus base that may not even know what OnePass is. (It’s been a long, long time since Continental was based here, and they’re often the last airline people think about.)

Should United be flying Orange County to Honolulu? Hell yeah, but they don’t really have the right airplane for the route. Those Airbuses can’t make it. So once again, United will sit back and watch another airline pick away at its turf. At least this time it’s an ally. It’s quite interesting to see Continental make these changes.

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