Hawaii’s tourism may get boost from extra airline seats

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In what could provide a much-needed boost to tourism this winter, the state is projecting a modest increase in the amount of airline seats on flights to Hawai’i from December through February.

The report from the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, which is based on flight schedules of airlines that fly to Hawai’i, said the number of airline seats is projected to rise to 2.18 million during the three-month period, a 1.8 percent increase over the same period a year earlier .

The biggest increase is from the U.S. East, with the number of airline seats from that region rising 20 percent to 242,783, according to the DBEDT report.

Airline seats from the U.S. West, the largest market for travel to Hawai’i, are projected to rise just 0.2 percent to 1.28 million, according to DBEDT. One of the bright spots in the U.S. West market is a move by Alaska Airlines to launch service between Oakland and Hawai’i.

The Seattle-based carrier this month began four flights a week between Oakland and Maui, and three flights a week between Oakland and Kona.

On March 11, Alaska Airlines said it will launch three flights a week between San Jose and Kahului. It will follow that up on March 12 with the inauguration of four-times-weekly service between San Jose and Kona. The airline also announced it will offer daily flights between Sacramento and Maui starting March 26.

The DBEDT report also said the number of airline seats from Japan is projected to rise 2 percent to 389,161 for the three-month period. Air seats from Canada are expected to rise 27.5 percent to 109,256.

The number of visitors traveling to Hawai’i, which fell by 10.6 percent in 2008, is projected to fall by another 4.5 percent this year before beginning a slow recovery next year, according to DBEDT.