Hawaii-Japan routes hurt United Airlines

By Russ Lynch

United Airlines lost $15 million in its Tokyo-Hawaii service in the final quarter of 1997, compared with a $10 million profit in the year-earlier quarter.

The airline said today, however, that while its scheduling officials are always keeping a close eye on performance on various routes, there are no plans to reduce Japan-Hawaii service.

Rono Dutta, United's senior vice president of planning, was quoted in yesterday's Chicago Tribune as saying declining currencies and slumping economies throughout Asia has adversely affected the airline's business in the area.

Spokesman Joe Hopkins today confirmed what Dutta had said in the article about the Asian economic turmoil. "Hawaii is affected," Hopkins said.

The airlines operations within Asia are also a soft spot and have been since the summer, he said.

The Tribune article said United's revenue between Japan and other parts of Asia fell to $53 million in the last quarter, from $63 million in the 1996 quarter.

United's Japan-Hawaii loss came despite an 8.9 percent fare increase in that service.

The Asian economic crisis affected the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau's forecast for tourist arrivals in 1998.

Despite a strong mainland economy that is expected to bring a first-quarter boost of 2-to-4 percent in travel from the mainland, Japan arrivals in the same period are expected to be anywhere from flat to down 2 percent.

For the full year, the HVCB says overall tourist arrivals for the year will be flat at best as the expected increase in westbound traffic will be offset by the dip in eastbound traffic.

Bloomberg News contributed to this report.

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