HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – The leading tour operator in China has contracted to fly charters from Beijing and Shanghai to Honolulu for the 2011 celebration of the Chinese New Year.
The office of Gov. Lingle announced late Friday that China Youth Travel Services Holding is offering two flights, to leave Beijing on Jan. 30 and Feb. 4, picking up additional passengers in Shanghai before flying to Hawaii.
"The special flights over the Chinese New Year holiday will help in our continuing efforts to increase demand for Chinese visitors to Hawaii," Lingle said in a statement. Her office said Hawaii officials and the tour operator have been discussing this for months including talks at the World Expo in Shanghai in June.
Gao Zhiquan, vice president of the travel agency, said these are "the first flights offered by an independent operator to one destination." China Eastern Airlines will provide Airbus 340-300 aircraft for the flights, which require, but are expected to get, U.S. Department of Transportation approval.
Hawaii tourism officials have been trying to secure direct China air connections for years. Last year both Washington and Beijing approved scheduled flights by Hainan Airlines, a Chinese air carrier that already has scheduled flights to Seattle. But a year later there is no launch date set, with the airline reportedly holding out for special breaks on landing fees that U.S. airports typically do not give.