Hawaiian hopes high for Kiwi route

Kiwi bookings to Honolulu since the Hawaiian Airlines flights began in March have reportedly 'gone ballistic'.
Kiwi bookings to Honolulu since the Hawaiian Airlines flights began in March have reportedly 'gone ballistic'.

Hawaiian Airlines will look to add more services to its Auckland-Honolulu route if demand follows the same patterns as flights to Australia.

The airline's president and chief executive, Mark Dunkerley, said the thrice-weekly service would be stepped up during school holidays later this year and permanent increases in frequency were possible.

"I think we're very encouraged by what we've seen - we've been able to add some frequencies later in the year. We're seeing some growing interest southbound out of the United States as well," he said during a break at the International Air Transport Association meeting in Cape Town.

"I know that over the years there's been concern that carriers have said they'd come and then don't come but it's terrific to be in the market."

The airline has been flying Auckland to Honolulu since March. One travel agent said the introduction of competition to Air New Zealand had seen bookings to Hawaii "go ballistic".

Hawaiian had increased services rapidly in response to demand on routes to Australia and the airline wanted to add breadth to markets when it could.

Dunkerley said fares would remain competitive.

"It's a competitive marketplace - where competition suggests where we have to be we'll be there."

Hawaiian was geared to leisure customers with a higher proportion of seats in economy than most other full-service carriers and that was how it managed its costs.

Dunkerley said the low-cost carrier model did not generally work on long-haul travel. "They want low prices but they don't want low service, they want the kids to be entertained and want healthy food on the aircraft - they don't want to feel they're being cheap."

The airline spent about $55 million operating the route and although load factors had started slightly below the global average of aircraft being 80 per cent full, it expected to match that figure in the coming quarter.

Flight Centre chief Mike Friend said the Hawaiian market "had gone ballistic" since the arrival of the airline and Air New Zealand had responded by putting on more capacity.

More traditional Pacific destinations such as Fiji and the Cook Islands seemed unaffected but Friend said other places including Thailand, Malaysia and Bali were more likely to suffer given they were about the same price as a package to Hawaii.

Hawaiian flies to 11 destinations on the United States mainland. Dunkerley said Los Angeles was the favourite for Kiwis, although Las Vegas had seen good take-up which the airline had not expected.

International Air Transport Association figures show Asia-Pacific is forecast to be the world's most profitable region during the next year.

"The big shifts in the world economy play well to what we're trying to do," said Dunkerley.

He said the airline pulled out of Manila in August but was starting new services to Taipei and Japan and, from next April, Beijing.

Tattoos hidden for flyers' sake

Hawaiian Airlines says it takes a similar line to Air New Zealand on frontline staff having tattoos - if they're not covered they can't work.

The airline's president and chief executive, Mark Dunkerley, said the issue came up often.
"This is a subject on which we have a great deal of debate - our policy is the same as Air New Zealand's in practice - no visible tattoos," he said.

"We look at our customer base. We carry a lot of people from Asia and they see tattoos in a much different light," Dunkerley said.

"We think it's important to make all our customers feel at home therefore our policies around this go to the most conservative."

Grant Bradley flew to Cape Town courtesy of South African Airways and Air New Zealand.

- NZ Herald

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