HONOLULU (KHNL) -- A golden opportunity. That's how Hawaiian Airlines is looking at its new route to the Philippines. The carrier just launched the new, direct service from Honolulu to Manila on Monday. The first batch of travelers returned to Honolulu on Thursday.
Hawaiian music set the mood for a festive reception at the airport in Manila. Hawaiian Airlines President and CEO Mark Dunkerley enthused, "It's going to be a good bonding opportunity and help cement the ties that exist between Hawaii and the Philippines."
The direct service can get you from from Honolulu to Manila in a little over 10 hours. It's Hawaiian's first Asia destination, with four flights a week. It'll help Hawaii residents rekindle family ties, like former First Lady Vicki Cayetano, who has relatives in Manila. "I'm so excited. Some of my aunts and uncles are getting on in years. We have to enjoy each other while we have a moment."
Business owners like Emily Garcia of Gateway Travel said the flight will help boost commerce. "This is a big chance for them to diversify with other choices."
Strong ties to the Philippines make this a solid market. Almost a quarter of Hawaii's population is part or full Filipino. State Representative Joey Manahan (D) was born in Manila and still has family there. He was on the flight, as the vice chair of the House's Tourism and Culture Committee. Manahan asserted, "There are 177,000 people going back and forth every year (to the Philippines). If you average $1,000 per plane fare, that puts you at $177 million a year just on plane fare alone. I really think this is an untapped market for a mainstream business like Hawaiian."
The inaugural round trip landed in Honolulu thursday afternoon; a smooth trip, say officials. And they're hoping more and more customers will agree they're the airline that goes the extra smile.