KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Hawaii Island will soon see the return of direct flights to Japan from Kona, three times per week.
Hawaiian Airlines will begin serving the new flights from Honolulu and Kona from Haneda airport in Tokyo no later than January 2017. The U.S. Department of Transportation approved Hawaiian Airlines’ application this morning.
“This is tremendous news for Hawaiian Airlines, for our employees, our customers and for the economies of Kona and our entire state,” said Mark Dunkerley, Hawaiian’s president and CEO, in a media release. “Flights between Hawaii and Japan are the most traveled and most beneficial to the U.S. economy, so being able to expand the number that we can offer to Tokyo’s Haneda airport is especially important. We have estimated that the Kona portion alone will generate $35 million in visitor spending and $12.5 million in wages and benefits.”
“Secretary (of Transportation Anthony) Foxx shared this good news this morning, and I continue to appreciate the excellent work the Secretary has done to add new routes between Tokyo and the U.S.,” said U.S. Senator Brian Schatz. “It is important to keep in mind there are five more routes up for competition, and I will continue to strongly advocate for Hawaiian Airlines in their effort to secure more direct flights from Tokyo to Hawai‘i. Hawaiian has a proven record of success in the Tokyo market and there continues to be tremendous demand to fly into Hawai‘i.”
Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi said he is thrilled by today’s announcement.
“Our economy is uniquely tied to air service,” said Mayor Kenoi in a news release issued by the county. “Thousands of our working families depend on the visitor industry, not only at resorts and hotels, but also at attractions, activities, restaurants, and retailers. This is great news for our state, and especially for Hawaiʻi Island.”
The county also points out that the new service will be able to carry air cargo, which could be benefit to local businesses that specialize in agriculture and aquaculture niche markets. “These products no longer have to be sent to Honolulu before being flown to Japan,” said Mayor Kenoi. “This increases freshness and reduces cost.”
This will be the Big island’s first regularly scheduled international flight since 2010, the last year Japan Airlines offered service between Kona and Tokyo’s Narita airport. The Kenoi administration says the restoration of the direct-to-Japan route has been a priority.
Hawaiian Airlines requested the nighttime slot pair, and the Department found that prompt approval of Hawaiian’s request is consistent with the public interest. Hawaiian Airlines says the DOT must still decide which five of eight remaining applications by four U.S. air carriers for daytime slots at Haneda it will approve. The slots were opened as part of a February agreement between the U.S. Government and the Government of Japan. Hawaiian has asked that its existing daily Honolulu-Haneda service be among those five.
“Securing the daytime slots for our existing Honolulu-Haneda route will optimize these scarce route rights, since no other application comes close to providing the benefits to the community, travelers and the economy when compared to our already successful service started six years ago,” Dunkerley noted.
Mayor Kenoi thanked Hawaiian Airlines for never giving up its pursuit to expand its Hawaiʻi-Japan routes, significantly the direct flight into Kona. “Our residents are keenly aware of the great economic impact this will have for the entire island,” Mayor Kenoi said. “This is also a win-win as it strengthens the competitiveness of Hawaiian Airlines in this market, and fulfills a U.S. Department of Transportation mandate to strengthen smaller carriers.”