Aloha to Dreamliners bringing Europeans
to ‘the dream’
Virgin Atlantic Airways plans to begin nonstop flights between London and Honolulu in 2011.
EUROPE has been a small player in Hawaii's tourism market, but that could change in the near future. Virgin Atlantic Airways' flamboyant Richard Branson has announced plans in four years to launch the first regular nonstop flight between Hawaii and Europe
, which should prompt Hawaii tourism officials to turn their marketing eye to the continent.
Branson told a news conference in Chicago of plans to begin nonstop flights connecting London with Honolulu and Perth, Australia, and later to Sydney and Melbourne, once it receives 787-9 Dreamliners from Boeing Co. in 2011. Virgin Atlantic has ordered 15 of the Dreamliners, which can carry up to 290 passengers.
Lufthansa, the German airline, made test flights between Frankfurt and Honolulu years ago, but Hawaii tourism officials have shrugged their shoulders at the possibility of any airline regularly flying nonstop between Hawaii and Europe. However, Branson is famous for turning high-risk endeavors into billions in profits.
Branson is "the most entrepreneurial person I know," said Jonathan Ornstein, chief executive of go! parent Mesa Air Group Inc., who worked with the British tycoon for several years in Europe. Ornstein told the Star-Bulletin's Dave Segal that if anyone can make a profit from flights between London and Honolulu, Branson is the man.
One-stop flights from London to Honolulu, with a refueling stop on the West Coast, typically take 18 to 20 hours. A nonstop journey between London and Honolulu nearly passing over the North Pole likely would take less than 14 hours.
Europe has been a tiny market for Hawaii tourism. Together, Britons and Germans make up only 2 percent of Hawaii's total visitor days. Europe accounts for only 3.2 percent of the Hawaii Tourism Authority's marketing budget.
Since the Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau was stripped of the authority's international marketing assignments in 2003, the German-based Mangum Group has promoted Hawaii in Europe as "The Dream." The emphasis has been on Britain and Germany, with a secondary focus on France, Italy, Ireland and Switzerland.
Two years ago, the tourism authority launched Hawaii's Aloha Academy, managed by Travel Weekly, Britain's leading travel trade magazine. The training program has been marketed to more than 15,000 travel agents in Britain, Ireland and the continent. Such activities should accelerate as Branson's Dreamliners approach the runway.
"If this aircraft allows European tourists to visit a place that they've not been able to get to, I think it could be a very good market, " said Ornstein.