The United Kingdom’s third-largest airline is considering flying a Boeing 787 Dreamliner direct to Honolulu from England, a step that could help boost arrivals from a market that has been lagging recently.
Luton, England-based Thomson Airways, which is expecting delivery of the Dreamliner beginning in January 2012, said yesterday it was considering service to Hawaii following a recent survey by the airline in which Honolulu was rated as the most popular new long-haul destination by 75 percent of respondents.
The Dreamliner can seat between 200 and 300 passengers depending on model and cabin configuration. The plane is considered revolutionary in that it reduces the symptoms of jet lag associated with long flights with a lighting system that re-creates the sunrise and sunset of its final destination. It also provides higher humidity levels in the cabin that will leave passengers less dehydrated.
Thomson, a subsidiary of TUI Travel PLC, said departures could be from Gatwick, Manchester, Glasgow and Bristol. Thomson said besides Hawaii, it also is considering flights from those UK cities to Borneo, Madagascar, Namibia, , Cambodia, Ecuador, Vietnam and Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Hawaiian Airlines also has the capability with its newly acquired Airbus A330-200 aircraft to fly direct to Europe but has been focusing on the Asia market with recently announced new service to Tokyo and Seoul-Incheon, South Korea.
"We would welcome direct flights from Europe," said state Tourism Liaison Marsha Wienert. "The biggest challenge we have had historically in increasing visitors from Europe is that long transit time. That has hampered us in growing that market at the rate we believe the market demand is."
Flights from Europe to Hawaii can take more than 14 hours. A direct flight can include a stop at an intermediate point but has no change in the flight number and usually takes less time than connecting with a different flight.
Visitor arrivals to Hawaii from the United Kingdom and Europe overall have been down recently. In 2009 there were 44,189 visitors from the UK, down 18.5 percent from 54,212 in 2008. Total European arrivals, which include the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland, were off 4 percent to 33,864 from 35,264.
Through May of this year, UK visitor arrivals are down 7.6 percent to 14,733 from 15,938, while total Europe arrivals to Hawaii are lower by 4 percent to 33,864 from 35,264.
Thomson Airways, which is acquiring eight Dreamliners, said it will be the first UK airline to fly that aircraft. Parent company TUI Travel, a top travel provider in Europe, is taking on an additional five Dreamliners.