Hawaiian, Alaska Airlines drive tourism recovery

Brad Tilden
Brad Tilden
Mark Dunkerley
Mark Dunkerley

By Howard Dicus - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii visitor traffic is up substantially from last year on added air capacity from a variety of airlines, but two of them, Hawaiian and Alaska, are playing especially key roles.

"This market has been extremely good for the company," Alaska Airlines President Brad Tilden said Tuesday.

Alaska has shifted 15% of its entire route network to Hawaii, replacing much of airlift that disappeared in 2008 when Aloha Airlines and ATA Airlines shut down permanently within days of each other.

"That created a big vacuum that we've been very fortunate to be able to come in and fill," Tilden said.

Alaska flies to Hawaii from Seattle, Portland and Oakland as well as Anchorage. Tilden says Alaska is considering other routes as well. It competes with Hawaiian on most of its routes, and, to a lesser extent, with the former Northwest routes of Delta.

"Hopefully there is enough here for everybody," he said.

Hawaiian Airlines has also expanded its trans-Pacific capacity. It now flies to Hawaii from San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland and Sacramento, all four major airports in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Hawaiian also flies to the islands from Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas and Phoenix. Both of its first two Airbus A300-200 jetliners are in service on the LAX-HNL corridor, the newest planes flying the route.

But Hawaiian has been making headlines with its plans to launch service from Tokyo and Seoul, adding to its existing flights to Honolulu from Sydney and Manila.

"Asia is a long-term strategy for us," said Hawaiian CEO Mark Dunkerley in his own Sunrise appearance Tuesday.

Hawaiian won one of the four landing slots reserved for U.S. air carriers upon completion of a new fourth runway at Tokyo's close-in Haneda airport. The project is on schedule and the runway should open in November. Hawaiian intends to launch immediately, while United Airlines and Delta Air Lines, which won the other slots, don't plan to begin serving Haneda until later.

Hawaiian is also one formal approval away from permission to launch service to Seoul, and Dunkerley said this will not be the end of Hawaiian service to cities in Asia.

"It's the fastest growing region of the world in terms of economic activity," he said. "We believe that Hawaii is a very attractive destination and we want to be in on the ground floor."

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