Korean Air gets bigger plane to seat growing Korean tourism

Gina Kim Nakamura
Gina Kim Nakamura

By Mari-Ela David - bio | email

HONOLULU INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (KHNL) - Some encouraging news light of the rocky economy - Korean Airlines has added more seats on its daily flight in and out of Honolulu.

It's a hopeful sign the Korean Visa Waiver is giving Hawaii's tourism a much needed boost.

From a regular 777 plane to a Boeing 747, Korean Air has upgraded to a jumbo jet to accommodate growing interest.

"Which means an increase of 83 seats per day," said Gina Kim Nakamura, President of the Hawaii Korean Chamber of Commerce.

The airline switched to the larger plane on March 1st. Nakamura says Korean Air also eliminated its fuel surcharge of $280 per flight.

"That means they pay that much less to come to Hawaii, which is great news for us," she said.

Last October, South Korea became part of the visa waiver program. It allows citizens there to visit the U.S. without a visa. Since then, Nakamura says Hawaii has seen more tourists from Korea.

"From November to the end of February the people who travel without visa was over 13,000 to the U.S. and out of that, 2,600 visited Hawaii, which is great news for Hawaii again," she said.

The economy is still preventing our islands from seeing the maximum potential of the Korean visa waiver.

"Because of the Korean won exchange rate, a lot of them are not able to travel at this time, but the numbers will quadruple by hopefully in a couple of years," said Nakamura.

It's growth Korean Air is now beginning to dove tail on.

Spring is traditionally honeymoon season in Korea, so Nakamura says they expect a surge in Korean visitors starting next month.