|By Alan Yonan Jr., The Honolulu
AdvertiserMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
May 8, 2010 --A new daily Hawaiian Airlines flight between Honolulu and Tokyo's close-in Haneda airport would help offset the loss of air seats caused by Japan Airlines' shift to smaller aircraft on its Hawai'i routes.
Most U.S.-bound flights from Tokyo leave from the Narita airport, which is about an hourlong train ride from the Japanese capital. The more convenient Haneda airport recently has opened up to more U.S. flights, including four slots that were offered to U.S. carriers.
Hawaiian won tentative approval yesterday from the U.S. Department of Transportation for one of those slots and will use it to run a daily flight between Honolulu and Haneda.
In addition to Hawaiian, Delta Airlines was awarded two routes and American Airlines one. They will use those for flights from Mainland cities. The DOT rejected applications by United and Continental.
Hawaiian Airlines officials welcomed the decision, but said they would ask the DOT to reconsider their request for a second route.
The DOT said it favored Hawaiian's application because it would increase competition and be good for the Hawai'i economy. Hawaiian was the only airline of the five applicants that did not have existing service to Japan.
Hawaiian said its Haneda service will begin in late October. Initially it will use its 264-seat Boeing 767-300ER on the route before adding its new 294-seat Airbus A330-200.
more air seats
The additional Hawaiian flight would be timely for the local visitor industry, which is facing a reduction of air seats from Japan as JAL phases out its fleet of 747-400s and replaces them with smaller 767s on its Hawai'i routes. JAL said it plans to retire all of its 747s by next year.
The seating capacity of JAL's 747-400s is 320 to 450 passengers depending on configuration, while the 767 holds between 213 and 239.
"We're obviously excited to be tentatively approved for one of the two routes we're applying for," said Mark Dunkerley, Hawaiian's president and chief executive officer.
"But the applications are still open for consideration and it is in that environment we continue to feel our application for a second route should be approved," he said. "We remain convinced that our proposal would produce far greater benefits to competition than the other proposals."
Dunkerley said Hawaiian will file its request for reconsideration during a 10-day period set aside for objections by the DOT. Answers to the objections are due seven days after that. The department will issue a final decision at the close of the comment period.
Delta was approved to fly from Los Angeles and Detroit to Haneda, while American received approval to fly from New York to Haneda.
Hawaiian Airlines would "achieve the important objective of enhancing competition in the U.S.-Tokyo market as a new entrant," the DOT said in its decision.
"As the provider of one of four new U.S. carrier services at Haneda, Hawaiian's entry into the Japanese market should be a positive development in terms of offering greater choice to travelers as well as increased competition in the U.S.-Japan market," the DOT said.
closer to capital
Haneda has been off-limits to U.S. carriers since 1978. It has mostly been a domestic airport, but it's desirable for U.S. carriers because it is closer to the center of Tokyo than Narita.
A new open-skies treaty reached in December between the U.S. and Japan significantly relaxed restrictions on flights between the two countries, including slots at Haneda.
"Convenience is an important factor for travelers, and Haneda's central location within Tokyo provides an accessible alternative to flying out of Narita International Airport, which is about 40 miles away," said Mike McCartney, Hawai'i Tourism Authority president and chief executive officer.
Flying into Haneda also will make it easier for Hawai'i residents flying to Tokyo.
"My husband goes about three times a year and I go about once," said Sophie Hara of Hawai'i Kai. "Haneda is definitely more convenient . Narita is a very nice airport, but the fact that it is so far away kind of makes it a deterrent."
Reach Alan Yonan Jr. at email@example.com.
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