POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Mar 15, 2011
The remaining Japanese visitors stranded in Hawaii after the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan were able to return home yesterday after several airlines added flights to accommodate the backlog of passengers.
A total of 15 Honolulu-bound flights were grounded in Japan on Friday, leaving no return flights for those passengers who were scheduled to fly from Hawaii back to Japan. Although most flights resumed Saturday, the one-day disruption left thousands of passengers stranded here.
Among the airlines canceling or delaying flights were Japan Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines and All Nippon Airways.
Japan Airlines, which has six scheduled daily round-trip flights between various Japanese cities and Hawaii, added one extra flight on Sunday and two yesterday to clear up the backlog, said Winston Lee, JAL's director of sales and public relations in Hawaii. Of the total 1,500 JAL passengers stuck in Hawaii, 700 were put on flights Sunday and the remaining 800 were scheduled to depart yesterday, Lee said.
Delta, with three scheduled round-trip flights between Japan and Hawaii, added a flight on Sunday.
Lee said it was premature to say whether a potential loss of Japanese visitors to the islands might result in a reduction in the number of flights to Hawaii.
"If demand softens considerably, there might be some adjustment, but it's too early to say," he said.
Even before the disaster occurred, the Hawaii Tourism Authority was forecasting a decline in visitors from Japan for the first three months of this year. The forecast, based on schedules the airlines provide, was for 400,850 air seats from Japan during the first three months of the year, a 1.3 percent drop from the same period a year earlier.