Hawaiian Airlines became the only U.S. carrier offering nonstop service between Hawaii and Taiwan early this morning when it took off from Honolulu to the capital city of Taipei.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie was among the passengers on the scheduled 1:55 a.m. flight that state tourism officials hope will lead to a jump in visitors from Taiwan to Hawaii. Other dignitaries on the flight included the governor’s chief of staff, Bruce Coppa; and V.C. Chu, director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Honolulu.
Hawaiian said the 10-hour, 20-minute flight, which is scheduled to arrive at 6:15 a.m. Wednesday in Taipei, left Honolulu during the early morning hours to allow for convenient passenger connections to other cities in Southeast Asia such as Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; Hong Kong; and Jakarta, Indonesia. The pre-flight ceremony at Honolulu Airport included live Hawaiian music and hula; a traditional blessing, a presentation of lei to passengers boarding the flight; and a special lion dance honoring the Taiwanese culture by the Kuo Min Tang Physical Culture Association. Abercrombie was one of the guest speakers.
Taiwan brought 9,641 visitors to Hawaii last year, up 17.8 percent from 8,186 in 2011, according to data from the Hawaii Tourism Authority. But those numbers are far down from previous years, when arrivals hit a five-year peak of 51,353 in 2009. In March 2011, China Airlines suspended nonstop service to Honolulu from Taiwan due to low demand but resumed nonstop service last month. During that time Taiwanese flying to Hawaii had to transit through other airports.
Through May of this year, visitor arrivals from Taiwan are up 18.5 percent to 4,074 from 3,437 in the first five months of 2011.
Hawaiian is using a 294-seat A330-200 aircraft for the service and will depart Honolulu at 1:55 a.m. every Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday and arrive at 6:15 a.m. the following day. The return flight departs Taipei at 8:55 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and arrives in Honolulu at 1:10 p.m. the same day.
Taipei is the ninth new international route for Hawaiian in less than three years. Hawaiian is also planning to begin service between Honolulu and Beijing in April.