Hawaiian Airlines launched its inaugural flight to South Korea this afternoon as the carrier marked another milestone in its 81-year history.
The airline’s four-times-a-week service to Incheon International Airport, just outside Seoul, is expected to help boost Hawaii tourism following the United States’ inclusion in November 2008 in a visa waiver program that allows Koreans to travel to the U.S. without a visa.
Through the first 11 months of this year, 79,131 Koreans visited Hawaii, up 75.3 percent from 45,148 during the same period a year earlier, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority. For all of 2010, the HTA is projecting 92,180 visitors, a 79.5 percent increase over 51,353 in 2009.
This year the HTA is projecting 115,225 Korean visitor arrivals, up 25 percent from the 2010 projection.
Hawaiian’s foray into South Korea is its third into Asia and follows service to Manila in 2008 and to Japan’s Haneda International Airport last November.
The flight to South Korea will depart Honolulu on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 1:20 p.m. and arrive at 8:05 p.m. the following day. The return flight departs Incheon on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays at 10:15 p.m. and arrives in Honolulu at 11 a.m. the same day.
Hawaiian is initially using its 264-seat Boeing 767-300ER aircraft for the flights but said it eventually will transition to its new Airbus A330-200 aircraft.