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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, April 28, 2010

JAL cuts Narita-to-Kona route, adds flight from Haneda to Honolulu

Advertiser Staff

Japan Airlines said it will cancel its daily Narita-to-Kona flight this fall and at the same time launch a new daily flight from Tokyo's Haneda Airport to Honolulu

The Kona flight is one of 15 international routes being cut by JAL as part of its bankruptcy reorganization.

JAL also said it will close its office in Kona, which is the state's only port of entry besides Honolulu for Japanese visitors.

Both the route being cut and the one being added are serviced with Boeing 767 aircraft, which has a capacity of 213 to 239 passengers depending on the configuration.

Officials at JAL were concerned about a declining number of passengers on the Kona flights, which were about 72 percent full on average in recent months, according to David Uchiyama, the Hawaii Tourism Authority's head of marketing.

Uchiyama along with HTA President and CEO Mike McCartney and other state tourism officials are flying to Kona today to meet with Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi to discuss strategies to respond to the flight cancellation. The final JAL flight is scheduled to arrive Oct. 30, the same day the Haneda-to-Honolulu service starts, according to JAL.

Kenoi said Hawaii County is hoping to find other airlines that might be interested in the route.

JAL has been providing direct flights to Kona since 1996. It considered suspending service last year, but state, Hawaii County and tourism industry officials convinced the carrier to reconsider.

The decision to suspend direct flights to Kona comes as JAL undergoes a company-wide restructuring in which 16,500 jobs will be lost.

"Direct flights are critical to the well-being of our working families and small businesses, and we will work with all of the major players to preserve this vital component of our economy," Kenoi said.

"Kona is the only airport outside of Honolulu that receives international direct flights, and it is important that we develop a strategy that helps us preserve the federal infrastructure that is now in place in Kona to serve international arrivals."