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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, February 26, 2010

Hawaiian a perfect fit for Japan flights

By Murray A. Towill

Hawaiian Airlines has taken a significant step toward reversing Hawai'i's weakening Japanese tourism market by filing an application with the U.S. Department of Transportation to be awarded twice-daily nonstop flights between Honolulu and Tokyo's Haneda International Airport.

Located near Tokyo's population center, Haneda is far more convenient for travelers than Narita International Airport, which is approximately 40 miles from the city center. Hawaiian is seeking two of the four operating rights made available in recent bilateral talks between Japan and the U.S.

Competition is stiff. United, Continental, Delta and American Airlines, all of which currently service Tokyo from Narita Airport, have filed applications for service between Haneda and various U.S. Mainland cities. Delta is hoping to be awarded all four operating rights which would seem unikely one of which is earmarked for Honolulu.

While we certainly appreciate the air service to Hawai'i from all parts of the world by other U.S. and foreign carriers, our tourism community takes special comfort in knowing that Hawaiian is exclusively dedicated to serving the interests of Hawai'i resident and tourism travel needs, as it has done for the past 80 years.

Having our own major isle-based carrier gives us more dependability and control over our destiny. With Hawaiian Airlines currently ferrying more than a million visitors a year to Hawai'i, it is true to say that as Hawai'i's hometown carrier grows and succeeds, so does the state's economy.

Given its financial success and stability at a time when other airlines are heavily in the red, Hawaiian is in a good position to spread its wings to Japan and bring its lauded brand of service and hospitality to Japanese travelers.

The Japan market the state's second-largest source of visitors behind the U.S. Mainland has faltered over the past decade. The implications of this decline have been widespread and every effort has been made through marketing to improve the situation. However, a steady drop in flights to the islands has stifled growth.

Combining the convenience of Haneda with Hawaiian's award-winning service and on-time record, would offer a new, superior and competitive travel product that will certainly increase Japanese travel to Hawai'i.

In deciding which of the five carriers should be awarded the four operating rights to Haneda, the Transportation Department takes into consideration public support favoring the bidders. Accordingly, we have a small window of opportunity for elected, business and community leaders from all islands to make the case to the federal government that Hawaiian's new Japan service will have widespread benefits for Hawai'i consumers, residents and businesses.

It would be one of the best "economic stimulus" initiatives that Washington can offer our state.