China charter requests isle flight
Hainan Airlines wants to fly passengers to an LPGA tournament
Hainan Airlines has put in an application with the U.S. Department of Transportation for a one-time charter flight from Honolulu to Hakou, China, in October.
The application from Grand China Air Ltd., the holding company for Hainan Airlines, is for a single round-trip flight on an Airbus 330-200 between October 19 and 21.
The purpose of the charter flight is to take passengers to an LPGA golf tournament, according to Joel Chusid, Hainan's general manager for North America.
"We'll be taking people from Hawaii to Hainan," said Chusid. "It's a strictly one-time deal."
Chusid estimated between 80 to 90 passengers would be on the charter flight, although the airplane's total capacity is 213 seats.
If approved, it would be Hawaii's first direct charter flight between Honolulu and Hakou, China, which comes several months after a memorandum of understanding went into effect June 17 allowing Chinese leisure travelers to travel to the U.S. in group leisure tours.
Although this flight transports passengers from Hawaii to China, the state is hoping it will open doors in the future.
Mega Global Airway, a Beijing-based charter company which had announced in May that it was launching six weekly nonstop flights to Honolulu this year, has not yet moved forward with its plans.
Mega Global President Edmond Xia could not be reached for comment.
"Mega has not yet materialized," said state tourism liaison Marsha Wienert, who added that there are no additional confirmed charter flights from China.
Wienert, however, said the application by Hainan Airlines is a good start.
"Once this flight actually happens next month, it can show Hainan Airlines they can have the capability of doing charters," she said. "We will continue working with them to see if we can encourage them to do additional charter flights."
Hainan Airlines, founded in 1993 on the island of Hainan on China's south coast, is a private airline backed by international financiers such as George Soros,
Hainan describes itself as China's fourth largest carrier, with 500 routes that go from Beijing to Seattle; Budapest, Hungary; Brussels, Belgium; Osaka, Japan; Macau; and St. Petersburg, Russia, with nonstop flights to Berlin being the most recent addition.
Chusid said a new route to Honolulu is not a consideration at this time.
"We've looked at the market, but it's not quite mature yet for us," said Chusid. "The outbound business from China is just now starting to develop."
The Grand China Air LPGA - the first LPGA event in China - is scheduled for October at the Hainan West Coast Golf Club in Haikou, and is expecting Annika Sorenstam and Tseng Yani to be among 63 female world golfers competing for $1.8 million.