Hawaiian Airlines is boosting its New Zealand service to five flights a week between Auckland and Honolulu from next March, a move that is likely to push fares down further on the increasingly competitive route.
The airline has for the past four years flown three times a week and from next March will substantially boost capacity. Most of its traffic is Kiwis flying northbound to Hawaii but it says its southbound loads from the United States mainland and Hawaii were also healthy.
Hawaiian's president and chief executive Mark Dunkerley said that he couldn't talk about fares yet but the cost of travel to Hawaii had fallen since his airline had entered the market and he expected more ''good value'' fares as a result of the extra seats in the market.
Air New Zealand has stepped up its flying to Hawaii since Hawaiian entered the market and last month announced a significant boost to flights next winter.
Intense competition had resulted in fares between Auckland and Honolulu falling from around $2000 four years ago to as low as $699.
Dunkerley said he was satisfied there would be sufficient demand for the big increase in the number of seats on the route next year.
While there was growing competition from other destinations such as Thailand and Bali as services from New Zealand increased, Hawaii was still good value for Kiwi holidaymakers, he said.
The airline would bed down the new five-times-a-week service and could increase it to daily if demand was sufficient.
Hawaiian's new A321neo aircraft start arriving in its fleet from next month and these will be used on services from Hawaii to the United States mainland which could free up more planes to fly further afield on other routes.
In the year before Hawaiian's launch, fewer than 26,000 New Zealand travellers visited Hawaii, according to authority figures.
Following Hawaiian's entry, visitor arrivals from Auckland nearly doubled to more than 50,000 in 2013 and topped 60,000 for the third straight year in 2016.
For the first six months of this year, the number of Kiwi visitors to the state increased by more than 6 per cent to more than 27,000, figures from the Hawaiian Tourism Authority show.
Air New Zealand announced in August it will operate an additional 94 return services during the period, moving to daily flights and up to nine services per week during the busy July school holiday period.
That will add almost 60,000 more Air New Zealand seats between Auckland and Honolulu from April to October next year, an increase of 75 per cent compared with this year.
Under Hawaiian's expanded schedule, starting March 21, flights will depart Auckland at 11.55pm five times weekly, Wednesday through to Sunday, arriving in Honolulu at 9.45am on the same day. Flights from Honolulu to Auckland will depart at 2:05pm Tuesday through Saturday, arriving at 10pm the following day.
In 2016, more than 15,000 Hawaiian Airlines' passengers arriving in Honolulu from Auckland continued on to one of the carrier's 11 gateway US cities or to an island other than Oahu.
On the Auckland route Hawaiian flies A330s which have been fitted with lie-flat seating in its premium cabin and increased the number of extra comfort seats.
Dunkerley said his airline had experienced strong demand for its premium seats from leisure travellers.