“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.
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.