U.S. extends authorization on
JAL's Tokyo-Kona flights

From staff and wire reports

The U.S. Department of Transportation has given Japan Airlines approval to continue direct flights from Tokyo to Kona at least through March, Big Island Mayor Steve Yamashiro said yesterday.

Renewing the authorization for the flights that began in June, the department also allowed JAL to increase the Kona service to seven flights a week, from three.

Gilbert Kimura, a JAL spokesman in Honolulu, said daily service isn't likely to start right away. JAL will add flights as demand picks up, he said. Demand has been good, however, and the company did put on two Tokyo-Kona charters recently on days when the scheduled flights couldn't handle the demand, he said.

"This is great news for the Big Island," said Diane Quitiquit, director of the county's research and development division. "JAL has been doing extremely well."

JAL flies Boeing 747s carrying up to 404 passengers directly from Narita airport outside Tokyo to Keahole on Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays.

Tourism officials have estimated that if the 747s are 80 percent full, that will represent 48,000 tourists a year and a $100 million-a-year economic boost to the Big Island. JAL reported a passenger load of 87.2 percent in September.

fires Hawaii sales staff

By Star-Bulletin staff

A San Diego company that recently started selling long-distance service in Hawaii has laid off its small sales staff here, citing poor results in the commercial sector.

WorldxChange Communications earlier this month laid off the five agents responsible for selling commercial accounts, said Craig Inouye, vice president of the company's Pacific division.

The slow sales pace didn't justify retaining the agents, he said.

Instead, the company is relying on about 20 independent agents locally to market its commercial service and intends to lower business rates next month to be more competitive, Inouye said.

WorldxChange entered the Hawaii market this summer.

Despite the commercial woes, the company's residential long-distance service, sold through direct mailings and in advertisements in ethnic publications, is meeting projections, Inouye said.

He declined to provide specifics.

The company charges a flat rate of 8.9 cents per minute to its residential customers, plus a $3.95 monthly charge.

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