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Hawaiian Air aims to bolster service to Asian destinations

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Hawaiian Airlines, which began its first flights to Japan last month, may add another Asian destination next year, possibly in the same country, Chief Executive Officer Mark Dunkerley said yesterday.

The destination would be in addition to service the carrier plans to begin Jan. 12 to Incheon, South Korea, Dunkerley said. Hawaiian’s options for next year also include adding flights to South Korea, he said.

"Expansion into Asia is a strategy," Dunkerley said. "We clearly want to, and intend to, build a sort of brand image, name recognition, in these markets. That becomes progressively easier the more service that you put into these markets."

U.S. carriers have been adding flights to Asia, lured by expanded airport access and travel growth. Asia-Pacific traffic grew 10.4 percent through September from last year, outpacing a 6.7 percent gain in North America and 4.4 percent in Europe, according to the International Air Transport Association.

Hawaiian Holdings Inc.’s Hawaiian, Delta Air Lines Inc. and AMR Corp.’s American Airlines won permission to fly to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport this year under an "open skies" agreement between the U.S. and Japan. Haneda is 10 miles south of central Tokyo, while the city’s main airport, Narita, is about 44 miles away.

Hawaiian Holdings rose 14 cents, or 1.8 percent, to $8.04 on the Nasdaq. The shares have gained 14.9 percent this year.

Haneda flights connecting Honolulu so far are "working out better than we anticipated," Dunkerley said. The flights are more than 80 percent full, and Haneda enjoys a fare premium over Narita, though Dunkerley said he was unable to be specific.

"Assuming everything continues to go as well as it looks now, I think you can expect to see one to two new Asia destinations per year," he said. "That’s where the growth is. That’s where the people who are likely to travel live."

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