Hawaiian Airlines' New York-Honolulu Flights Ready to Compete

The mainland’s east coast got a little closer to Hawaii this week when Hawaiian Airlines launched its first nonstop flights between New York City and Honolulu.

It’s not that Hawaiian is alone in offering this kind of service—United already flies between Newark and Honolulu, and will soon offer flights from Washington, D.C. as well—but Peter Ingram, Hawaiian Airlines' chief commercial officer (and former CFO told Travel Agent that these flights would be unique: United flies all over the world, but Hawaiian is focused on Hawaii. And that can make all the difference.

The airline emphasizes Hawaiian culture and design in aspects from décor to food served onboard (the only domestic carrier that still offers a free hot meal in Economy seats) to its behind-the-scenes hiring practices. It is, ultimately, a Hawaiian business for Hawaii.

“That focus is the core to what we do,” he explained. “We’re not looking just to survive but to thrive in competitive industry. We have to rely on that focus, and on being different when others are more alike.”

Not that Hawaiian is afraid of competition: “We competed in the west coast—in San Francisco and LA—and we do that very well…Our analysis suggests that this market is big enough for two carriers. And the strong advance bookings support that. The New York-Honolulu flight is ahead of our west coast flights for the remainder of the year.” 

With the first trans-continental flights already selling well, the airline is looking to see where their next east coast market will be. “It’s too early to say,” Ingram said. “We’re looking at alternatives in big markets that we think are capable of supporting our service…One thing from our perspective is that we’re keen to diversify our network. We’re doing that with this flight and with international flights to Australia, Japan and Korea. You’ll continue to see that.” In order to add more long-haul flights, of course, the airline also has to add more planes capable of flying that distance. Four of the new A330s are entering service this year—one will launch next month—and more will come on board next year. Ingram estimates that the next east coast destination for Hawaiian will not be announced until the summer of 2013. Until then, the airline's codeshare partnership with JetBlue will bring customers from up and down the coast to New York for their Hawaii flight.

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