By Mark Carpenter
HONOLULU - (HawaiiNewsNow) - Just months after launching flights to Tokyo's Haneda airport, Hawaiian Airlines started daily service to the city of Osaka on Tuesday.
The new route is the airline's third into Asia since beginning flights to Korea in 2010.
"It's something we are very proud of as a team at Hawaiian airlines to be working to bringing our service to new groups of customers," Hawaiian Airlines Chief Financial Office Peter Ingram said. "We couldn't be more excited about being able to deliver that unique Hawaiian Airlines service to more and more people."
In the wake of Japanese visitor downturn due to the recent earthquake and tsunami disaster, the new route is expected to provide a huge boost to Hawaii's economy.
"This one Osaka flight will meet about $120 million in visitor spending in Hawaii and about $18 million in state tax revenue," said Mike McCartney of the Hawaii Tourism Authority.
"The Asian flights that Hawaiian has put together are complimenting Hawaii's economy very well," McCartney said. "Over a year period they'll add to about $350 million in visitor spending in Hawaii...So It's a very important piece to Hawaii's economy."
Before boarding the plane, passengers were greeted with an authentic Japanese performance and a Hawaiian blessing of the new flight.
One passenger in particular, Curt Otaguro, Chairman of the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii, was also on hand for the festivities.
"I think it's a great honor for us to be a part of this historic event. Hawaiian airlines has been serving Hawaii for close to 90 years and as part of our Japanese heritage, I'm honored to participate and represent that," Otaguro said.
Flights to Osaka are Hawaiian's second route to Japan and the airline is looking into expanding its services even further.
"We've got a list of markets we are looking at all the time. We've got other places in Japan that we would be interested in serving at the right time," Ingram said. "We've got other places in North America we would be interested in and really it's a question of what bubbles up to the top of the list."