Airline Seats To Hawaii Projected To Hold Steady This Quarter

Airline seats to Hawaii seen holding steady this quarter

The state forecasts just a 0.4 percent decline despite a big drop-off from Japan

By Dave Segal
Article from: Star-Advertiser
STAR-ADVERTISER
Avi Mannis, vice president of marketing for Hawaiian Airlines, says Japan is an important part of the company’s long-term strategy and that a decline in passengers following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami has not changed Hawaiian’s strategy. Hawaii should be able to weather the drop in airline traffic from Japan this quarter.

Added seats on flights from the West Coast, Australia and South Korea should make up for the reduction in Japa­nese flights since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority said yesterday it is forecasting airlift to Hawaii to be down just 0.4 percent from the year-earlier quarter due to increases from the U.S. West (1.2 percent), Australia (43.5 percent) and South Korea (136.6 percent).

Those increases will offset a projected 10.5 percent second-quarter decrease in air seats from Japan as well as a 20.3 percent reduction in service from the U.S. East market, according to the tourism agency’s revised airline seat capacity outlook report.

“This is an indicator that interest in travel to Hawaii remains strong and mirrors our strategy of driving increased demand, and particularly from destinations such as the U.S. West, Korea and Australia,” HTA President and CEO Mike McCartney said.

HTA, which recently said it was implementing a $3 million tourism recovery plan, said passenger arrivals from Japan were likely down 18.3 percent in March.

Japan Air Lines and Delta Air Lines have temporarily reduced service between Japan and Hawaii, according to HTA.

Hawaiian Airlines is keeping its daily flight to Tokyo’s Haneda International Airport and proceeding with plans to begin daily service to Osaka in July. But Hawaiian said it is delaying putting its 294-seat Airbus A330-200 on its Haneda flights until summer and will continue to go with its 264-seat Boeing 767s.

Hawaiian said it expects bookings from Japan, which currently account for about 5 percent of its revenue, to be down just under 20 percentage points over the next month.

Avi Mannis, vice president of marketing for Hawaiian Airlines, told the Pacific Asia Travel Association Hawaii Chapter yesterday at the Hawaii Prince Hotel in Waikiki that the airline remains committed to Japan.

Mannis said Hawaiian’s service to Japan has gone uninterrupted since the earthquake except for one day when the airline had difficulty finding ground transportation for its flight crew.

“Our operations team did a fantastic, dedicated job of making sure we retained all of our service to Haneda and that we got people in and out,” Mannis said.

“Japan is an important part of our strategy for the long term,” he said. “We came into the Japa­nese market in Haneda, and now, with the Osaka announcement, we fully expected this was a market we were going to pursue. Nothing about the (Japan) events have fundamentally changed the strategy.”

Mannis said Hawaiian has been focused on Japan even more so over the last month and that the company has been participating in community fundraising events as well as implementing a payroll deduction program for employees who want to contribute to the Japan relief effort.

The airline is planning a “Lei Day” for Japan from 6 to 9 p.m. May 1 at Aloha Tower Marketplace in which there will be continuous live entertainment from well-known Hawaii performers and 25 food stations from the state’s leading chefs. Tickets are $100 per person for general admission, with other packages also available. More information is available online at LeiDayForJapan.org or by calling 585-0011.

Also yesterday, Blaine Miya­sato, vice president of product development for Hawaiian, said the renovation of Hawaiian’s interisland terminal at Hono­lulu Airport is on schedule and will be completed by June 1. He said it will cut passengers’ check-in time to just 2-1⁄2 minutes from 10 minutes.