Hawaii's Airlift Takes Off

In the last few weeks, Hawaii’s airlift scene has seen some major changes. Alaska Air is now flying direct from San Diego to Honolulu; United Airlines is flying into Hilo on Hawaii Island, and just this week, China Eastern Airlines launched nonstop service from Shanghai to Honolulu

The increase is no accident, David Uchiyama, VP for Brand Management at the Hawaii Tourism Authority told Travel Agent, but the result of years of effort by the HTA: “Ever since Aloha Airlines went out of business, we have been focused on airlift and access to Hawaii because we’re so isolated,” he said. “We hired an airline analyst, we attended airline conferences, we identified carriers and markets that we thought were underserved based on the current flow of visitors. We took data and went to carriers and told them, ‘We have people originating from this area that could use your service rather than fly in from other gateways.’”

This increase is only the beginning: Asiana Airlines will be launching flights to the islands soon, and Uchiyama hinted that we could expect a “big announcement” about a South Pacific airline flying to Hawaii in the near future.

“Hawaii has been a favorite destination for people from North America, especially the West Coast—we’re in their backyard!” Uchiyama says with a laugh. “The change in service that has re-stimulated the market is the ability to fly directly to the outlying islands instead of the hub-and-spoke model through Oahu. Now people can fly direct to any of the islands, so we’ve seen the North American market stimulated as well.” There is an added benefit to this: For the longest time, Uchiyama says, most of Hawaii’s leisure travel has been focused on Oahu, but the more diverse airlift will help promote other islands that people may not have considered before. “We’re getting the message out that each island has its own personality.”

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