Early spring air capacity: 2.3 million seats

By Howard Dicus - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Airline seats to Hawaii for the next three months will be up only a little over 1 percent from the same time last year, with fewer seats from both Los Angeles and Japan.

It appears, though, that capacity has to some degree shifted to cities and counties more likely to fill flights in the current economy. Air capacity is up from Canada, Australia, Korea and the San Francisco Bay Area.

The running three-month air capacity tally shows 2,325,536 scheduled airline seats to Hawaii during March, April and May, up 1.1 percent, according to data posted for the new month by the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

Domestic seats will be up a mere 0.5 percent, reflecting a 3 percent build-up from U.S. West almost entirely offset by 14.7 percent less capacity from U.S. East airports. International airlift will be up 2.8 percent despite a net decline in seats from Japan.

Air capacity at a glance:

  • Oahu 1.6 million, up 0.6 percent.
  • Maui 446,000, up 7.2 percent.
  • Big Island 155,000, down 12.7 percent.
  • Kauai 125,000, up 7.8 percent.

Domestic visitor picture

Los Angeles is still by far the single largest source of visitors to Hawaii, and a major transfer point for visitors from farther east on the U.S. mainland as well, and the three-month period will see almost 506,000 seats from LAX. But that is actually down 6.2% from the same time last year. That's a loss of 30,000 seats, not all of which have shifted elsewhere.

Capacity is up, however, from the San Francisco Bay Area, with 12.4 percent more seats from Oakland (42,000), 22.5 percent more from San Jose (41,000) and 9.2 percent more from Sacramento (37,000) even though there will also be 2.5 percent more seats from SFO (271,000) for a total of more than 380,000 seats from the region. SFO is a major United transfer point while Hawaiian and/or Alaska serve the other airports there.

There will be 127,000 seats from Phoenix, up 4 percent, 62,000 seats from Chicago, up 34.1 percent, and 37,000 seats from San Diego, up 58.7 percent. US Airways has a hub at Phoenix, which Hawaiian also serves, and both United and American have hubs at Chicago O'Hare. But US Airways abandoned its experiment with nonstops of Charlotte, Delta canceled its former Northwest nonstops from the Twin Cities, and capacity will be down from the American and Continental hubs at Dallas-Ft. Worth and Houston, respectively.

International visitor picture

Japanese air capacity from this month through the end of May will be just under 373,000 seats, down 8.9% from last year at the same time despite Hawaiian Airlines, Japan Airlines and All-Nippon Airways collectively adding 70,000 seats from Tokyo Haneda airport. It's a loss of well over 30,000 seats, but Hawaiian Airlines is making that up by more than doubling capacity from Seoul, to 68,000 seats for the period.

With the Canadian dollar recently worth more than the U.S. dollar, visitor traffic from Canada has been up, and the air capacity report shows 6.9 percent more seats from Canada, just shy of 100,000 for the three-month period, more than half of them to Maui.

That doesn't count nearly 14,000 seats from Bellingham, Wash., where Alaska Airlines recently launched Hawaii flights to collect Canadians driving down from British Columbia to evade steep Canadian airport taxes. Alaska and Hawaiian Airlines also carry some Canadian visitors here from Seattle, and SeaTac capacity will be up 6.1 percent during the three-month period to more than 155,000 seats.

The Australian dollar is also near parity with the U.S. dollar and the tally shows more than 45,000 seats from Sydney, up 34 percent from the same time last year. Qantas, its discount subsidiary Jetstar, and Hawaiian Airlines all fly between Australia and Hawaii.

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