New Continental flights reflect state’s continued airlift recovery

*logoUnited Continental Holdings drew a great deal of praise from Hawaii tourism officials with its Dec. 16 announcement outlining plans to begin nonstop flights from Los Angeles and San Francisco to Hilo on the Big Island this June.

“The addition of the two routes is welcome news for Hawaii Island and the entire state, and a result of the momentum established by our tourism industry to lead Hawaii’s economic recovery,” said Mike McCartney, Hawaii Tourism Authority president and CEO.

“Based on initial Hawaii Tourism Authority projections, the flights could bring nearly 40,000 more visitors to the island and generate $50.6 million in direct visitor spending and $5.52 million in tax revenue.”

Airlift to Hawaii has been steadily returning since the collapse of both Aloha Airlines and ATA reduced available seats to the destination by a devastating 15% in the spring of 2008.

“By the end of the year, nearly 92% of the domestic seats lost following the closure of ATA and Aloha Airlines in 2008 are expected to be restored,” McCartney said. “And we have seen year-over-year increases in seat capacity from Japan, Canada, South Korea and Australia.”

According to the latest projection by the state’s Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism, total seats to Hawaii are projected to climb 6.4% through December, January and February when compared with the same period a year earlier.

More than 2.3 million available seats are expected to arrive to Hawaii on nonstop flights during the three-month stretch, and nearly 1.7 million of those will come from mainland U.S. cities.

Although seats from the U.S. West, Hawaii’s largest source market, are expected to jump 12.3%, those from the U.S. East are forecast to drop 13.6% through February. Big losses are projected from markets such as Charlotte, where seats will likely fall 100%; Houston, sinking 52%; and Minneapolis, dropping 30.3%.

Substantial gains are expected from California cities such as San Jose, where seats are expected to spike 114.8% year over year, and San Diego, to rise 62.3%.

DBEDT's forecast also called for increased lift from international destinations — up 2.3% overall — with seats from Canada growing 3.9%, Seoul surging 53.7% and Sydney climbing 10.4%.

Flights from Japan will carry slightly fewer seats, dipping 0.7% from the same period a year ago.

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