Keeping Hawaii’s Skies Friendly
From the Hawaii Tourism Authority comes very encouraging news for the visitor industry and also for the people of Hawaii.
The HTA is projecting that the number of scheduled nonstop air seats operated to Hawaii will rise slightly by 1 percent over the prior year level for the final quarter of 2011. The increases, representing flights from Japan, Canada, other Asian cities and Oceania, will offset decreases from the mainland United States.
This projected increase will put this year’s scheduled air seats on track to reach a total of about 9,284,000 seats by the end of the year, an increase of 1 percent over last year and the largest number of seats operated to Hawaii since capacity began declining in 2008.
The increase from Japan is attributed to service from Hawaiian Airlines, China Airlines and All Nippon Airways, which counterbalance decreases resulting from Japan Airlines’ downsizing of its aircraft serving Hawaii. New flights by Asiana Airlines, service by Hawaiian Airlines and Korean Air, and new flights by China Eastern Airlines will contribute to a near doubling of fourthquarter capacity from Asian markets other than Japan. Air seats from Australia will rise because of new flights by Air Australia and increased service from Hawaiian Airlines and Jetstar. Meanwhile, seats from Canada will rise thanks to service by Air Canada and additional WestJet capacity.
Domestically, capacity from the Mainland will decrease by 3 percent because of rising fuel prices. West Coast seats will decline by less than 1 percent, but capacity from the eastern United States will decrease by almost 18 percent. That’s why the increase in our international market will help to mitigate this drop in the domestic sector.
If you’re outside the visitor industry, a report like this may not have caught your attention. After all, air service to Hawaii has become so plentiful that we’ve come to take it for granted. We’ve gotten used to booking flights based on lowest cost, package deals, convenient flight schedules, direct service or fewest connections, use of frequent-flier miles and other considerations.
But all of these choices, all that personal convenience, can be attributed largely to a thriving visitor industry. Because so many people visit Hawaii nearly 7 million a year we have many airlines serving our state from all over the world. And that means more transportation choices for our people, despite the fact that in some instances we’ve been dealing with the introduction of fees that accompany the price of an airline ticket.
Given Hawaii’s remoteness, air service is a need-to-have, not a nice-to-have, for our quality of life. Government has had to invest billions of dollars in runways and airport facilities across the state. It is vital that the public sector, federal, state and county together cooperate with the airline and travel industries to ensure that airports are up to date, that the arrival and departure experience is pleasant and efficient, and that landing fees and other costs are reasonable enough to keep airlines operating.
Air service is always in flux, and it takes a concerted effort to ensure carriers continue to serve Hawaii. I, for one, can’t begin to count the number of meetings I’ve had with airline executives over the years to either invite them to initiate air service from new cities to Hawaii, or to thank them for their continued support of our islands. I’ve also been a longtime proponent of visa waivers and finding the right balance between hospitality and security to improve the visitor experience. One thing is certain: All the marketing, infrastructure investment, public services and aloha will be for naught if we can’t welcome visitors and we can’t travel because of air service concerns.
Yes, Hawaii’s travel industry creates thousands of jobs, generates billions in revenues that pay for public services and keeps our economy humming. But one of the by-products of a healthy economy is better air service, more consumer choice and terrific opportunities for visitors to enjoy the beauty of Hawaii and its people, and for local folks to experience the world beyond our island shores.
MUFI’S VISITOR HEROES
Position: Guest Services Agent
Location: Lawai Beach Resort
Working at the Lawai Beach Resort with guest services agent Paradise Keale-Ho is, well, paradise.
Paradise always stands ready to help her co-workers, handling herself with professionalism and patience no matter how great the demands or pressure. She has been more than willing to accept her front desk responsibilities with a “can-do” spirit, and takes great pride in talking with owners and guests about the wonders of the Garden Island.
Her supervisor, rooms manager Patsy Shaffer, says, “In a business where the goal is to deliver awesome services and to make vacation dreams come true, Paradise succeeds time and time again.”