HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - For 90 minutes, passengers on an Air Asia airbus out of Australia Sunday endured a teeth-rattling ride after an engine malfunctioned and the pilot turned around. The carrier's CEO Benyamin Bin Ismael says an investigation is ongoing.
"The important thing for me as a CEO is to make sure that my passengers are safe. And the important thing is the pilot did a great job in bringing the aircraft back," he said.
Bin Ismael and other Air Asia X officials accompanied passengers on the budget airline's inaugural flight from Malaysia to Honolulu that included a stop in Osaka, Japan.
Passengers who heard of the Australia incident were pleased their flight was smooth sailing.
"Fantastic flight! First flight. Feel very,very happy!" Jacob Lee said.
"It was good. Very nice. Very comfortable seat," Musashi Yamamoto said.
Air Asia X will make four flights a week to Honolulu.
Tourism officials estimate the route will generate $86 million a year in visitor spending and $10 million in state tax revenue.
"The fact that you've got all these carriers that want to come to Hawaii is a testimony to our brand, our product, our state of Hawaii," Hawaii Tourism Authority president George Szigeti said.
Air Asia service launches as Homeland Security demands tighter security measures for international flights.
"They did talk about also penalties for the airports not willing to do it or on those that do not have the capabilities to do it. So we will have to do it," State Transportation Department Director Ford Fuchigami said.
Hawaii averages 8,000 arriving international passengers a day. Air Asia X will add to that total.
As for that Australia flight that had the pilot asking passengers to pray, Bin Ismael applauds him.
"And I applaud the team for handling the whole situation very well," he said.