HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A China Eastern Airlines A-340 touched down at Honolulu International Airport at 11:30 a.m. Sunday, becoming the first-ever direct charter flight from China to Hawaii. The chartered flight brought 263 passengers, who were greeted with flower lei, hula dancing and live Hawaiian music.
The flight is the first of three charters arranged by China CYTS Tour Holding Company, one of the leading tour operators in China. It is also the first flight to arrive after the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding signed between the U.S. and China, allowing for more direct flights to and from Hawaii.
"This has been a long time coming," said David Uchiyama of the Hawaii Tourism Authority. "There have been a lot of conversations with different carriers out of China. We're hoping that this is going to lead to either additional charter flights or scheduled service."
"Chinese people know that Hawaii is a holiday paradise," said Zhang Lijuan, the head of CYTS, through an interpreter. "More people want to come here, but the problem has been that it's not been convenient."
The Hawaii Tourism Authority expects more than 82,000 visitors from China this year. Compare that with the more than 1.2 million who are expected to arrive from Japan, which has regularly-scheduled direct flights to Hawaii.