Hawaii tourism outlook already looking strong based on airlift numbers

Updated: Jan. 2, 2018 at 7:09 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - 2018 will come in like a lion for the Hawaii tourism industry, based on how many airline seats will fly here just in January.

The official state census of air capacity shows 100,000 more seats this month than in the same period last year, with two-thirds of the extra airlift going to neighbor islands.

Both Lihue and Kona will get about 20,000 more seats than last year, while Kahului capacity will increase almost that much.

Most recent airline announcements of capacity expansion have been turning seasonal routes into year-round services, suggesting a boost for non-peak months like January, without boding ill for peak months.

Capacity is a proxy for visitor traffic, assuming flights continue to run about as full as usual.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority and the state Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism anticipate 1,117,631 seats this month, compared to 1,016,406 last year.

That includes 758,490 from the U.S. mainland, up 13.3 percent from 669,500 in January 2017.

The West Coast still sends most Hawaii visitors, and especially the three biggest airports.

LAX will send 215,421 seats to Hawaii this month, up 16 percent, or about 30,000 more seats.

SFO will send 115,458, up 28 percent, or 25,000 more seats. Oakland and San Jose together will send 56,000 seats, bringing the San Francisco Bay Area total to 167,000 (180,000 if counting Sacramento).

Capacity will be up about 8 percent from both SeaTac and Portland, which means 9,000 more seats from the Pacific Northwest, or roughly 120,000 seats total.

The only U.S. cities that come even close to these figures are Phoenix, 41,000, Dallas, 30,000, and Denver, 27,000. Chicago will send fewer than 20,000 seats; Hawaiian's JFK route and United's Newark route together send fewer than 20,000 nonstop seats from the New York area.

Of 359,141 international seats – up 3.5 percent, or 12,000 more seats – more than 164,000 come from airports in Japan, despite a small decline in capacity – and almost 65,000 will come from Canada.

By far the biggest source of capacity after Japan and Canada will be South Korea, with more than 43,000 seats from Seoul, up a third from last year.

Capacity from China – Shanghai and Beijing combined – is about 13,000 this month, compared to fewer than 11,000 from New Zealand and about 6,000 from the Philippines.

That compares to 34,000 seats combined from the three Australian cities with direct flights to Hawaii.

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