Unless flights fly fuller, tourism flattens this winter

(Image: Raycom Media)
(Image: Raycom Media)
Updated: Jan. 3, 2017 at 6:36 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Airlines, foreign and domestic, plan to bring 1 million seats to Hawaii in the first quarter, but that's about the same as last year.

The 1,016,383 scheduled air seats, only 284 more seats in three months, mean the airlines can bring us a net increase in visitors only if they fly fuller than they did last year at the same time.

Load factors did sometimes increase in 2016, so it's possible, but statistically it's more likely that arrivals will be close to where they were in Q1 2016.

Inside that broad number are different trends for different islands.

  • Honolulu has 668,389 scheduled air seats, down only 0.5%, as a 5.8% increase in seats from Japan mostly offsets a 2.9% decline in seats from the U.S. mainland.
  • Kahului has 204,323 scheduled seats, up 0.6%, with 1.7% more domestic capacity slightly offsetting a 5.3% decline in seats from Canada.
  • Kona gets 81,824 seats, or 7.3% more capacity, which works out to more than 5,000 additional seats, including 3,822 seats on the new Hawaiian Airlines service to Kona from Tokyo Haneda. Hilo, served by a United Airlines light from LAX, will see 3,154 seats, up 16%, or 400 more seats than last winter.
  • Lihue is scheduled to land 58,693 seats, down 5.5%, or 3,000 fewer seats than Q1 2015.

Winter air capacity to Hawaii is down from Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento, San Jose, Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix and even Las Vegas, though most of the declines are small. Delta plans more capacity from Salt Lake City and United plans more from Denver.

Farther east, capacity is down only from the United hubs at Washington Dulles and Newark Liberty. Hawaiian Airlines plans  14,232 seats from New York JFK, fully a third more than last winter.

The New York Post recently reported that pregnant women in the New York area were switching their winter vacations from Florida and the Caribbean to Hawaii to reduce their chance of Zika exposure.

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