DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Eddie Conselva, a Hawaiian Airlines flight attendant, joined in dancing the hula Tuesday with children from Hula Halau Olana to greet passengers on Hawaiian's inaugural flight from Sydney, Australia, to Honolulu. Several airlines are adding seat capacity and flights serving Hawaii this summer, contributing to the travel industry's continuing recovery.
Major airlines will soon send
more flights and passengers
NEW flights and capacity from several major carriers this summer is expected to continue boosting the state's rebounding tourism industry.
Additional airlift is projected to boost Hawaii's visitor numbers by increasing summer seat capacity to an estimated 1.7 million seats, a 7.5 percent rise over the same period last year.
"It's the highest capacity increase since 2000, when we had nearly 1.5 million seats," said Chris Kam, market trends director for the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau.
The number of summer seats from the rebounding Japan market is also expected to reach 485,000, representing a 10 percent increase over last summer's numbers, Kam said.
"The numbers show that Hawaii continues to be a desired travel destination and the demand is dictating the lift," said Marsha Wienert, Gov. Linda Lingle's tourism liaison. "You put those two together and it looks like we will have a great summer."
Increased airlift has already resulted in robust growth for the state's domestic travel market, said Frank Haas, vice president of tourism marketing for the Hawaii Tourism Authority.
During the first quarter, there was a 13 percent increase in the number of domestic nonstop scheduled air seats to Hawaii, Haas said. Air seats on flights from the U.S. West increased seven percent, while air seats from the coveted higher-spending, longer-staying U.S. East market increased an unprecedented 45 percent, he said.
Hawaiian Airlines said it is increasing service between the mainland and Hawaii for the peak summer travel season to accommodate customer demand.
"Our advance bookings indicate this summer is going to be very busy so we're putting every seat we have out there," said Mark Dunkerley, Hawaiian Airlines' president and chief operating officer.
Hawaiian announced yesterday that it will introduce daily nonstop flights connecting San Diego and Maui, effective June 11 through September 6. Hawaiian is increasing its nonstop Seattle-Maui service from four flights weekly to daily service, effective June 11.
With the additional flights from these two primary Western U.S. markets, Hawaiian is boosting summer capacity to Maui by approximately 32,000 seats. Hawaiian is increasing its nonstop service between Honolulu and Pago Pago, American Samoa, from two to three flights per week, effective June 17 through September 6.
Aloha Airlines will add a seasonal flight offering daily service from Oakland, Calif., to Lihue, effective June 17 to Sept. 6. Aloha is also adding a second daily flight between Oakland and Honolulu beginning July 2. And, Aloha will add a third weekly flight between Honolulu and Pago Pago, effective July 4 to Sept. 5.
United Airlines is also re-launching service between Chicago, its largest hub, and Honolulu in June.
While the state has had success in getting more airlift for its domestic market, it's still working on getting more seats from Japan, Canada and Australia, Haas said. However, tourism officials have been encouraged by addition of a nonstop flight from Australia to Hawaii and by the willingness of carriers who serve the Japan-Hawaii market to offer more flight sections, he said.
The addition this week of service between Sydney, Australia, and Honolulu by Hawaiian Airlines is expected to stem a trend of diminishing seat capacity from Down Under, Haas said.
Visitor traffic from Australia has declined since 1990 when Hawaii received 238,000 arrivals. By 2003, that figure had sunk to 78,000, according to the Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, the result of major carriers using long-range jets to bypass Hawaii and fly nonstop from Australia to the West Coast.
Hawaiian will provide nonstop, round-trip service from Down Under four times weekly, adding more than 1,000 seats to Hawaii per week, a 20 percent increase. The service is expected to generate more than 34,000 visitors to the islands in its first year, producing more than $40 million in visitor spending and $4 million in state tax revenue.
Japan Airlines has also indicated that if tourist demand stays high it will add extra flight sections to their schedule as the carrier did during spring's Golden Week holidays, said spokesman Gilbert Kimura.
"Starting from March, there was a big turn in the numbers and we saw more Japanese tourists coming back to Hawaii," Kimura said, adding he expects a strong summer showing, especially during Obon, another traditional Japanese travel period which takes place in mid-August.