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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Hawaiian bidding for Tokyo route

By Alan Yonan Jr.
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser
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Hawaiian Airlines will be competing against heavyweights Delta, American, United and Continental airlines in its bid to win coveted slots opening up at Tokyo's Haneda Airport.

The state's largest airline yesterday applied with the U.S. Department of Transportation for two of the four slots for roundtrip flights from Honolulu to Haneda.

The slots will become available at Haneda this year.

"We by far and away have the most compelling case to be granted the rights we're asking for," said Mark Dunkerley, Hawaiian's president and chief executive officer.

"The strongest part of our case is the economic contributions the new services will bring to our state at a time when tourism is down."

Hawaiian Airlines is the only one of the five carriers that currently does not fly to Japan something the Department of Transportation will weigh as it makes its decision, he said.

If it succeeds in its bid, Hawaiian would begin flights in late October.

The other airlines competing for the Haneda routes all currently fly to Tokyo's Narita airport, which is about 45 miles from the city center. But Tokyo Haneda Airport is much closer to downtown. It's a prize that has been off-limits to U.S. carriers since 1978.

A new open-skies treaty reached in December between the U.S. and Japan would significantly relax restrictions on flights between the two countries, including slots at Haneda.

Direct flights between Haneda and Honolulu would boost Hawai'i tourism because it would make the Islands more accessible to Japanese who live in the country's secondary cities, said Marsha Wienert, state tourism liaison.

"People from a city like Fukuoka now fly into Haneda then have to transfer to a bus or train to Narita. It makes for a very long commute," she said.

"Being able to open Haneda for international flights and the potential for Hawai'i is exciting, especially being able to gain back visitors from outside Tokyo that we lost when routes from Japan to Hawai'i were cut back in recent years."

Both of Hawaiian's proposed daily flights would depart Haneda shortly before midnight and arrive in Honolulu around noon the same day. The return flights would both depart Honolulu around 6:45 p.m. and arrive at Haneda around 10 p.m. the next day.

Hawaiian said it plans to serve the route with its 264-seat Boeing 767-300ER aircraft and its new 294-seat Airbus A330-200, the first three of which will join the fleet in April, May and November of this year.

Delta, the world's largest airline, applied for Haneda flights to and from Detroit, Los Angeles, Seattle and Honolulu, while American proposed service from Los Angeles and New York's Kennedy airport.

United said it would fly to Haneda from San Francisco. Continental filed a joint application with its Continental Micronesia unit for routes between Haneda and the carrier's hubs in Newark and Guam.