UAL Hawaii

Fascinating: United Airlines Hawaii Flights Began With DC-6 Glamor; $4,000 Tickets

“The world’s fastest, finest airliner” is how United Airlines described their entrance into the Hawaii air market just after World War II ended, in 1947. That was 75 years ago this week.

United’s promotion for their beginning of Hawaii flights to “their little corner of the world” is interesting in itself:

More speed, more comfort, on this, the first truly postwar plane. As you step aboard the Mainliner 300 at San Francisco for your 10:30AM departure, you’ll notice undreamed-of roominess, and luxury. Two individually decorated passenger compartments. Automatically pressurized cabin for low-level comfort at high altitudes. Individual lounges for men and women. During the 10 1/4 hour trip to Honolulu, you’ll enjoy United’s famed “Mainliner Menus” served by two gracious stewardesses.

The interior appointments of the Mainliner 300 set a new note in travel luxury. The spacious cabin, with its two separate compartments, is so large it could easily accommodate 72 passengers. But United has limited the seats to 52. Thus each passenger has more room for personal comfort. Included in the Mainliner 300’s outstanding features are constant air conditioning, soft indirect lighting, reclining seats adjustable to individual comfort, table-served meals, and lounges for men and women.

To date there’s been nothing like the Mainliner 300 in the sky. Winging its way over United’s strategic Main Line Airway, its cruising speed of more than 300 miles an hour brings cities served by this route closer to each other than ever. And with the finer, faster, extra-fare Mainliner 300s – “service in the Mainliner manner” takes on new meaning.

On average, United brought 1,000 people per month to Hawaii on what was then the longest of all over-water flights. Soon thereafter, United added flights from 87 cities across the U.S., via the West Coast. One ad said Hawaii was fast as 23 1/4 hours from New York.

The early flights cost just under $300 round trip. That is now equivalent to approximately $4,000.

Over the decades, United flew DC-8 jets to Hawaii starting in the late 50’s, as well as their very first Boeing 747–100 in the 1970’s. Since then, the airline has moved to Boeing 737, 757, 767, 777, and 787 flights to the Aloha State.

The United Hawaii flight was aboard a DC-6.

UAL Hawaii DC6

The DC-6 pictured above became one of the first to operate regularly scheduled around-the-world service. It was used by American, Braniff, Delta, National and United Airlines in the United States. United was the only airline we are aware of that used them to Hawaii, while others used them trans-Atlantic and internationally trans-Pacific. UAL used the fleet from 1947 to 1970. We believe that they were largely manufactured in Santa Monica.

The aircraft was pressurized, which allowed it to fly above most bad weather. They were also faster than most planes at the time, greatly reducing flying time to Hawaii.

For daytime flights, United offered 52 seats, but for night flights, they had just 24 sleeper seats. The cabin was divided, with 38 seats in the front, and 14 seats in the rear. Food service and a cloakroom divided these. Later, more seats were added.

What’s for dinner on UAL flights to Hawaii.

Things were definitely different back then. Traveling to Hawaii was a luxury more than it is today. Here’s an example of a dinner menu from a public media archive.

UAL promotional video of DC-6 luxury travel

Video from the 1948 film, “Million Dollar Weekend.”

This widely featured the UAL DC-6 on a flight from San Francisco to Honolulu.

Lead image of another early UAL Hawaii aircraft over Oahu.

4 thoughts on “Fascinating: United Airlines Hawaii Flights Began With DC-6 Glamor; $4,000 Tickets”

  1. My first trip to Hawaii was aboard the Matson Lines, Matsonia, right after I graduated from HS. The ship was loaded with coeds on their way to Hawaii for the summer. After a few days in HNL, my mother, brother and I took the Pan Am Stratocruiser to Manila with stops after 8 hours of flying on Wake Island, Guam, and finally Manila. I had gotten the worst sunburn of my life surfing at Waikiki and was looking forward to getting off my back in a berth on this plane. I was informed shortly after the flight began that we had been bumped out of our births because of some confirmation snafu and Embassy people got the berths. Lathered up with Noxzema during the stops on Wake Island and Guam. What a trip. Flew on a 707 on way home .

  2. The aircraft on the top of the article looks like the Boeing Stratocruiser that had two decks. I flew on one in 1960 that belonged to Pan Am from HNL to MNL with intermediate stops on Wake Island and Guam. Eight hours for each leg. What a grind. I had just gotten the worst sunburn of my life while surfing at Waikiki prior to the evening flight. What agony sitting on the wool seats.

    Manila finally had lengthened their runway three months later when I returned to the mainland and they were able to accommodate Pan Am’s Boeing 707s. Then it was nonstop to HNL.

  3. But now we can wear sweat pants and tank tops, get $99 fares and complain that we only get peanuts for free😂
    Thank you guys for occasionally reminding us on what life was like in the “good old days”.
    I’m not quite THAT old but do remember even in the 70s and early 80s coming to the island as a child in a 747 where people still dressed up and we had the “party lounge” upstairs.
    Fun times

    1. Hi Chris.

      Thanks for your ongoing input. We appreciate it! Yes, for both of us as well, travel began with wearing a suit and tie on the plane. It was an event. And we didn’t take our shoes off or put our feet on the bulkhead, among other behavioral differences.



Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top