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Crisis prompts JAL to trim isle flights

The state will likely struggle next month when the cuts occur, one hotel CEO predicts

By Allison Schaefers

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 02:09 a.m. HST, Mar 30, 2011


This story has been corrected.

The decision by Japan Airlines to slash its Narita-to-Honolulu flights by one-third adds to the challenges faced by the state's leading industry since the earthquake, tsunami and radiation scare crippled its No. 3 visitor market.

From April 6 to about April 24, JAL will pare weekly flights from Narita to Hono­lulu to 14 from 21, the carrier announced yesterday. JAL has a total of 42 flights per week to Hawaii from various cities in Japan. Only the Narita flights are affected.

JAL, which also made cuts affecting China and Korea, said in an emailed statement that the cuts were due to a 25 percent drop in its international passengers following the crisis in Japan. The carrier's domestic traffic also has fallen 28 percent since March 11.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority's projected 45 percent shortfall in targeted arrivals from Japan in the coming month had already factored flight consolidations into the mix, said Mike McCartney, HTA president and chief executive officer.

HTA plans to spend more than $3 million on a recovery plan that will also address projected shortfalls in Japan arrivals of 35 percent in May and 30 percent in June, he said.

"To the extent that we had Japa­nese groups on the books, they've cancelled," said Ben Rafter, president and chief executive officer of Aqua Hotels & Resorts. "Traveling from Japan is difficult in quarter two, but we hope that they will rebound in quarter three."

Without the Japan business to fill gaps in Hawaii's shoulder months, the state will struggle, Rafter said.

"The Japanese business isn't a large component for Aqua, but if the loss hits the beachfronts hard, that will trickle down to us in April and May when everybody needs all the business that they can get."

HTA will work with its marketing contractors and visitor industry partners to implement programs to increase the number of visitors from other major markets including North America, Oceania, China and Korea, McCartney said.

Come summer, strong traffic from the U.S. West, Oceania and Canada should boost Hawaii's visitor industry, Rafter said.

"Japan aside, we are positive," he said. "When we get out of the shoulder months, the market should improve."

McCartney said the HTA would monitor the situation and assess the impact the short-term consolidation of flights will have on Hawaii.

The board will work with JAL on efforts to drive demand and reinstate air seats to Hawaii when appropriate, he said.

"While it is important to Hawaii's visitor industry that the airlines providing serv­ice to our state remain healthy and viable, right now our main concern is for the Japa­nese people and helping them recover from this tragedy," McCartney said.

"We encourage others to join us in supporting the ‘Aloha for Japan' fundraising efforts."

Bloomberg News contributed to this report.

CORRECTION

The reduction in Nairta to Honolulu flights is scheduled to end on April 24. An earlier version of this story incorrectly said the reduction would end on April 27. Only the Narita to Honolulu flights are affected. Flights to Hawaii from other cities in Japan are not being cut back.





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