Hawaiian Airlines launched a new service to the West Coast on the mainland. HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports.
“We’d like to welcome you to the holding area for Hawaiian Airlines Flight 70, bound for Long Beach, California”
The inaugural non-stop flight represents the first new mainland destination for the locally based carrier since New York City in 2012 and the first West Coast stop since Oakland more than a decade ago. Hawaiian Airlines President and CEO, Peter Ingram, says Long Beach will provide the airline with more flexibility.
“This route really epitomizes the value of the A321, it being a 189-seat airplane instead of 278 on our A330s. It really opens us up to ht some markets that really aren’t just quite big enough to justify the wide body but will be perfectly suited for this aircraft.”
The airline will eventually have 18 new A-321 Neos by 2020.
A Hawaiian Blessing and hula dancers greeted the passengers at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport. Mark Rivera is from Laupahoehoe on the Big Island.
“I’m going to Long Beach for my daughter’s wedding. This one goes right into Long Beach which is closer to Huntington Beach, much closer.”
Mailelani Cox is traveling with her teenage son and daughter.
“We’re flying into Long Beach but we’re going to drive up to Yosemite. It’s a little ways. I think it’s about 6 hours, 7 hours,
somewhere around there. So, we’re gonna take our time to make it up there. They still want to travel so it’s a good thing, right? (laugh).”
The Department of Business Economic Development and Tourism is projecting an 8.2 percent increase in airline seats this year, with visitor arrivals near the 10 million mark and spending over 18 billion dollars. Hawai’i Tourism Authority president and CEO George Szigeti says the new Long Beach flight should be a plus for O’ahu.
“As Waikiki goes, we all go. I mean, it’s one of our hub and it’s had some challenges because a lot of airlines are now going direct to all the neighbor islands. You know, it’s taken away a little bit from Waikiki. But, Waikiki occupancy is still strong and what I’m encouraged about is the spend is up significantly in Waikiki.”
But, Szigeti says, increased air seats also boosts alternative accommodations, namely, illegal vacation rentals. House Tourism Committee chair, Representative Richard Onishi, says the state can only do so much.
“What we tried to do in the legislature last year – in the House – was to assist the county in their management of the vacation rentals. The land use issue is a county issue. So, we’re behind the counties to legislate and to enforce their land use laws.”
Meanwhile, Hawaiian Airlines president and CEO Ingram says current customer demand is very strong and the Long Beach route will also benefit local travelers.
“I’ve heard a lot of people locally tell me they’re really excited about it because they’ve got opportunities to travel to Los Angeles. And, if you’re taking that family vacation to Disneyland, well, that vacation is closer than ever because you’re gonna cut off about 20 miles. But if you’ve sat on the 405, South of LAX airport, that 20 miles can be about an hour sitting in the highway.”
For HPR News, I’m Wayne Yoshioka.