Gov. Linda Lingle is not playing favorites when it comes to supporting potential new air service between Tokyo’s Haneda International Airport and Honolulu.
Even though hometown carrier Hawaiian Airlines is competing with Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines—as well as three other carriers—for four available U.S. slots from Haneda, Lingle has written letters to the U.S. Department of Transportation supporting both Hawaiian and Delta for proposed Haneda-Honolulu routes.
“Only two airlines have requested routes to Honolulu, and we support all new seats coming into our state,” said state tourism liaison Marsha Wienert, speaking on behalf of Lingle.
Hawaiian, though, faces tough competition in that larger carriers American Airlines, United Airlines and Continental Airlines, as well as Delta, are all seeking Haneda routes that do not include Hawaii. Delta listed Honolulu as its last choice among four city pairings, which also include Detroit, Los Angeles and Seattle.
Hawaiian spokesman Keoni Wagner, declining to address Lingle’s dual support for Hawaiian and Delta, would only say that “we are grateful for her support.”
Throughout the application process, Hawaiian President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Dunkerley has expressed optimism that the airline can be awarded both of the Haneda-Honolulu slots for which it applied, and said Japan would be best served by Hawaiian.
The department is expected to decide sometime in May which U.S.-based carriers will get the coveted spots. The airport’s downtown Tokyo location is more attractive to business travelers than Narita International Airport, which is 44 miles away, and would allow carriers to charge a premium for fares. Japanese carriers also will be allowed four Haneda-U.S. slots.
In a March 1 letter supporting Hawaiian, Lingle stressed that Hawaii and Japan have strong cultural ties, Hawaii is the preferred travel destination for Japanese residents and that the new service would help stimulate the state’s economy, create jobs and be a huge benefit for both Hawaii and Japanese residents and businesses. She pointed out that visitors from Japan to Hawaii have fallen in half to 1.1 million last year from 2.2 million in 1997.
“Much of the decrease in arrivals can be attributed to the difficulty of access to Hawaii by Japan residents who live outside of Tokyo,” Lingle wrote. “We firmly believe that direct flights from Haneda to Hawaii will allow us to regain market share from secondary cities in Japan such as Fukuoka, Hiroshima, Sendai and Sapporo, which was lost when direct air serve from these areas was canceled.”
The Delta letter, dated the same day, said the new service would benefit Hawaii “by providing new options, improve accessibility and decrease travel time for Japanese travelers from cities outside of Tokyo.”
“This new service would create jobs and be a great boon for our residents and businesses during these troubled economic times,” Lingle wrote.