Monday, January 16, 2012

Hawaiian Airlines increases inter-Island flights and service to West Coast

Hawaiian Airlines is adding flights at Kahului Airport for both interisland and Mainland destinations, creating a "Maui hub" to improve connections.

The airline recently acquired three more Boeing 717-200s for its interisland fleet.

Wednesday, it announced it also will add a direct daily flight to Los Angeles this summer, and adjust its Las Vegas-Maui arrival time to make connections through to the Big Island easier.

"This investment in our core business here in Hawaii will increase service between Maui and other Neighbor Islands by 25 percent and answer a need identified by our kamaaina travelers," Hawaiian President Mark Dunkerley said.

He did not say it would add much to the airline's bottom line. The business of interisland flights is "very, very difficult," he said, adding that over the years "it has not been a successful business for any of the carriers, including Hawaiian.

"At the same time, it is the core, the heart and we wouldn't be Hawaiian Airlines without it," he said.

At the same time, it is fortunate that Hawaiian has its long-haul business to generate profits, he said.

The daily direct link to Kauai is a novelty. Until now, Hawaiian has had one daily run from Kauai to Maui, but to get to Kauai, Maui travelers had to go through Honolulu. Soon, there will be two daily direct round trips.

In total, Hawaiian is upping the number of interisland flights by 23 per day (25 on some days), with more than half stopping or starting on Maui.

The new routes will be added over the next several weeks.

On June 21, Hawaiian will reintroduce a daily direct flight to Los Angeles, the fifth West Coast city to get a direct link. That flight will operate through Aug. 18.

It will depart LAX at 9:40 a.m., arriving at Kahului at 12:15 p.m. The return will depart at 1:45 p.m. and arrive in Los Angeles at 10:05 p.m.

Details of the changes in the Las Vegas flight will be announced shortly, but the twice-weekly flight will switch from an evening to a morning arrival here. This should allow Big Island residents to make connections to the new Kahului-Kona or Kahului-Hilo schedules.

Hawaiian is in the process of increasing its Neighbor Island service to 180 flights daily from 157 flights on peak travel days, and to 168 flights from 143 flights on off-peak days.

Daily service to Maui will increase to 36 round-trip flights from 29 round-trip flights on peak travel days and to 34 round-trip flights from 27 round-trip flights on off-peak travel days.

The one daily round trip between Maui and Hilo will be boosted to two, and the two daily between Maui and Kona will go up to three.

Maui legislators welcome the increased service

"Hawaiian's expansion plan for Kahului Airport is good news for Neighbor Island residents and will make air travel between our islands easier while also increasing opportunities to showcase Maui as a visitor destination," said state Sen. J. Kalani English, chairman of the Committee on Transportation and International Affairs.

"It's nice to see a local company growing, hiring and adding services in our community," said state Sen. Roz Baker, chairwoman of the Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee.

Wailuku Rep. Joe Souki, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, said he supports Hawaiian's concept of a Maui hub.

"It will help satisfy the air transportation needs of our growing population and increased visitor arrivals on Maui, plus it adds more of a focus on the Neighbor Islands and the importance of their role in our state's economy," he said.

Hawaiian has been expanding rapidly and will continue to expand in 2012, Dunkerley said.

It ranks as a major airline, which the industry defines as having annual sales of $1 billion. Hawaiian's revenue is about 50 percent above that, but it is among the small majors.

"United is about 20 times our size," Dunkerley said.

The expansion is not intended to vault Hawaiian into the ranks of the biggest American air carriers, but it is needed to provide necessary services to travelers, he said, "That is really important." 

Hawaiian has 4,227 employees, with 3,820 based in Hawaii.

(Harry Eagar - The Maui News)

No comments: