KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Direct flights from Japan to the Hawai‘i Island have resumed for the first time since 2010.
On Wednesday, a crowd of more than 100 supporters – including Governor David Ige, Sen. Mazie Hirono, and Mayor Harry Kim – welcomed Hawaiian Airlines Flight 852 from Haneda as it landed at Kona International Airport shortly after noon.
Guests aboard the inaugural flight were treated to a special gate-side ceremony featuring Hawaiian music and hula, refreshments, a traditional Hawaiian blessing and the giving of fresh flower lei.
Hawaiian Airlines says the triweekly service between Haneda in Tokyo and Kona is the latest route in the airline’s fast-growing international network and adds to its robust presence in Japan. It follows the launch in July of daily service between Narita and Honolulu, and further complements Hawaiian’s flights from Haneda, Osaka and Sapporo to Honolulu, the airlines says.
“Our Japanese guests have been increasingly drawn to the vast wonders of the Island of Hawai’i and, in fact, our flight today is almost full,” said Mark Dunkerley, president and CEO of Hawaiian Airlines. “We are sincerely grateful for the support we have enjoyed from our Japanese travelers, and thankful to all of the local businesses, government officials and community members who backed our application to resume flights from Japan to the Big Island.”
“We are delighted to welcome the first non-stop flight from Tokyo to Kona in six years,” said Gov. David Ige, who was on hand to greet the flight. “This new service will lift the economy of our state and allow visitors from Tokyo direct access to the magnificent Kona Coast and all that Hawai’i Island has to offer.”
The governor played a role in establishing the federal inspection facility (FIS) at Kona airport just prior to the flight’s arrival.
“Today’s flight is the culmination of years of effort to reestablish international flights outside of North America to Kona, which is important for the Hawaii Island economy” said Senator Hirono, wrote to Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx to urge him to approve Hawaiian Airlines’ application for the direct route. “The visitors we welcomed today will only be the first to experience our unique culture and everything that makes Hawaii a special place.”
“Hawaiian’s Haneda-Kona service will provide a boost to the tourism industry for the island of Hawaii and the State as we enter 2017,” said Hawaii Tourism Authority president and CEO George Szigeti. “We project these flights will generate $54.2 million in visitor spending and $6.1 million in state tax revenue annually. Hawaiian has performed superbly with its nonstop service between Haneda and Honolulu, and we anticipate travelers from Japan will embrace these new flights to Kona and how this opens up more of Hawaii to explore. The opportunity to book a nonstop flight from Haneda to Kona will help strengthen travel demand from Japan and make Hawaii even more appealing as a destination.”
Hawaiian will operate its new Haneda-Kona and Haneda-Honolulu services with wide-body Airbus A330- 200 aircraft, the airline reports. “The fleet is currently being retrofitted to include 18 lie-flat seats in the Premium Cabin, 68 Extra Comfort seats and 192 seats in the main cabin. From the moment guests arrive, they will enjoy Hawaiian’s signature Mea Ho’okipa (translation: I am host) onboard service, long-celebrated for its warm and friendly celebration of the culture, people, and Aloha Spirit of the Hawaiian Islands,” Hawaiian Airlines says.