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Hawaiian Airlines debuts Osaka service

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    2011 JULY 12 BSN Jill Nishida, from the Hanayagi Dancing Academy entertained travelers with a Osaka style dance number. Hawaiian Airlines will initiate daily, nonstop service Tuesday to Osaka, providing 100,000 new air seats annually to Hawaii?s visitor industry from Japan?s second-most populous area, Osaka. SA photo by Craig T. Kojima

Hawaiian Airlines launched its third Asian route in eight months today when it initiated service to Osaka, Japan.

The state’s largest carrier, which has been aggressively expanding as other domestic and international airlines have been scaling back, kicked off its inaugural flight to Osaka, Japan, with music, dancing, a Hawaiian blessing and the traditional maile lei. The new service comes on the heels of Hawaiian’s inaugural flights to Tokyo’s Haneda International Airport in November and South Korea’s Incheon International Airport in January.

Hawaiian Chief Financial Officer Peter Ingram said bookings from Japan have been “very, very strong” despite the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

“We’ve seen a real strong recovery (in Japan) as we’ve gone into the summer,” Ingram said. “Bookings for June and July are very, very strong and we’re confident about a continuation of strong bookings going forward. So I think we really have seen signs of a recovery in traffic from Japan, and that’s obviously good news for Hawaiian Airlines and good news for Hawaii tourism overall.”

Until today, only Delta Air Lines and Japan Airlines offered daily flights from Osaka, which is Japan’s third-largest city with 2.62 million residents. The Osaka region — which includes Kyoto and Kobe — has more than 18 million residents.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority said last month it was revising upward its projections for Japan and said it now expects Japan arrivals to increase by 3.3 percent this year to nearly 1.3 million visitors, and Japan visitors’ spending to rise by 8.2 percent to $2.1 billion.

HTA President and CEO Mike McCartney, who flew to Osaka today as Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s representative, said that on a full-year basis that Hawaiian’s Osaka flight will result in up to $120 million in visitor spending and $18 million in state tax revenue based on 86 percent capacity on the flights. For all three of Hawaiian’s new Asia flights, McCartney said the annual payoff will be up to $350 million in visitor spending and $38 million in tax revenue.

“Osaka is like a new region for us, and I think they’re hungry for Hawaii and want to experience Hawaii,” he said. “So it’s a good opportunity for the travel industry in Osaka and for us. When we went to Osaka about a month ago, there was a lot of enthusiasm for Hawaii.”

Hawaiian’s flight to Osaka will depart Honolulu daily at 2:20 p.m. and arrive at Kansai International Airport at 6 p.m. the next day. The return flight will leave Osaka at 9:30 p.m. and arrive in Honolulu at 10:50 a.m. the same day. The flights will take between eight and nine hours. Japan is 19 hours ahead of Hawaii.

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