JAL encouraged to keep Kona flight
By Alan Yonan Jr.
Advertiser Staff Writer
A contingent of visitor industry and government officials flew to Tokyo yesterday to meet with Japan Airlines officials and press their case for keeping a Narita-Kona flight that JAL is considering canceling.
The Kona route is one of 20 international flights JAL is thinking about shutting down because of low passenger loads, Kyodo News reported recently.
"The Narita-Kona flight is important to the tourism economy of Hawai'i Island and our state," Mike McCartney, Hawai'i Tourism Authority president and chief executive officer, said before leaving for Tokyo.
"We are extremely concerned about the Kona flight from Narita ... and are actively working with JAL to see how the state, city and the visitor industry can assist to ensure that the route continues to be beneficial to all parties."
McCartney was joined on the trip by David Uchiyama, head of marketing for HTA; William Takaba, Hawai'i County managing director; and George Applegate, executive director of the Big Island Visitors Bureau.
JAL has been flying direct from Narita to Kona daily since 1996.
"JAL is contributing to the economic well-being of our entire island community, from our hotel workers and tour drivers to our small shops and restaurants, and we will all be working cooperatively to find ways to encourage JAL to continue direct flights to Kona," said Mayor Billy Kenoi.
JAL, which filed for bankruptcy in January, is expected to make a final decision on what flights will be cut when it releases its turnaround plan in late June, according to Kyodo.
The Big Island draws more Japanese visitors annually than any island but O'ahu, according to Hawai'i Tourism Authority data.
In February, 14,675 Japanese visited the Big Island, up 8.6 percent from the same month a year earlier. Their average length of stay was 3.22 days, up 9.5 percent from a year earlier.