Aboard Flight HA 457 to Haneda, Japan

Tim Sullivan
Tim Sullivan
Mike McCartney
Mike McCartney

By Oscar Valenzuela - bio | email

TOKYO, JAPAN (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaiian is one of only three U.S. airlines given permission by the Japanese government to land at Haneda Airport.

Their first flight landed late Wednesday night with our photojournalist Oscar Valenzuela on board.

He quickly found out it takes a special kind of knowledge to serve the newest passengers.

At 6:05 p.m. we promptly left gate 34 at Honolulu International. Once we were airborne, the flight attendants began serving meals and drinks, but on these flights to and from Honolulu they have to provide the service with a little something called Kikubari.

Kikubari... careful attention. Tim Sullivan was brought on board to train nearly 1,300 Hawaiian Airline employees the art of Japanese customer service.

"You try to read people's needs and you anticipate their needs and fulfill them before they ask you for it," Sullivan said.

Hawaiian Air's first venture in and out Tokyo's Haneda Airport offers one daily flight on their 264-seat Boeing 767.

That's a potential 100,000 passenger manifest list annually, most of whom will be Japanese visitors to Hawaii.

"Everything from the menus has been arrayed in such a way that it is going to be easy to decipher for our Japanese customers," Hawaiian Airlines CEO Mark Dunkerley said.

Dunkerley says attention to detail is crucial, as he now takes the local grown airline into the international Asian hub.

"The most important source of traffic in Asia is Japan, the most important source in Japan is Tokyo and the most important source in Tokyo is Haneda. So this really is the tip of the pyramid," Dunkerley said.

Much more of that pyramid will be revealed come January of 2011.

"[The new route from] Seoul comes in January and pretty soon there after I think you can expect to see us further developing our routes into Asia," Dunkerley said.

The airline flies nonstop to nearly a dozen cities on the U.S. mainland, now with Tokyo under their belt.

Hawaiian Holdings Incorporated, the airlines parent company, has recently spent billions in new, bigger planes with further reach.

And what can all of these new international flights mean for the state of Hawaii?

"140 million dollars in visitor spending, Japanese represent a major market for Hawaii. So one flight provides that opportunity for Hawaii," Hawaii Tourism Authority's Mike McCartney said.

But whether these opportunities blossom for the airline, and Hawaii, may all come down to the simple technique of anticipating that next cup of green tea.

"They're not going to tell you when they need something. They're going to kind of want you to be paying attention and to be there before they hit the call button," Sullivan said.

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