HONOLULU -- Amid growing concern that cruise ship passengers coming
to Honolulu this winter will eat up what little airline seat
inventory is available for other visitors, the Hawaii Tourism
Authority (HTA) formed an investigative committee to look into the
Looming largest on the HTA's collective mind is Norwegian Cruise
Line's Norwegian Star, which has the potential of bringing in 2,200
passengers a week to Honolulu when it starts interisland cruises
Dec. 16 -- two weeks before the busy holiday season.
NCL also has scheduled six interisland cruises on the Norwegian
Sky in October and November. That ship can carry 2,002
"We are going to add 2,200 cruise passengers a week when airline
loads are already heavy," said HTA member Ron Wright, who also is
the managing director of sales for Continental Airlines in Hawaii.
"The question is: 'Will there be enough seats for everyone?'
"I personally think that over a period of time, most of the new
cruise passenger demand will be absorbed 50% by existing service
and 50% by additional flights," Wright added.
Although most in the industry agree that airlines will adjust
seat capacity to accommodate all demand to Hawaii, including cruise
passengers, there still is some worry.
HTA members voiced concern during a recent board meeting that
NCL officials, in meetings with the HTA, used inaccurate figures on
airlift to the islands.
HTA further contended that NCL used those figures as the basis
to decide whether or not to use scheduled air seats or to charter
flights to the islands for its customers.
Norwegian said it is exploring charter agreements with airlines
serving Hawaii to ensure the line will have enough airlift for its
At the same time, NCL executive vice president Robert Kirtzman
said his company has been assured there are enough seats on
regularly scheduled flights to accommodate its passengers.
Outrigger Hotels & Resorts, Hawaii's largest hotel operator,
said it is worried that without increasing the air seat capacity to
Hawaii, Hawaii tourism will suffer when NCL starts its cruises.
"I think adding cruise departures without increasing lift would
definitely have a negative impact on people traveling to Hawaii for
other reasons than cruises," said Perry Sorenson, Outrigger chief
operating officer. "I would hope the airlines would recognize the
demand and add additional seats."
Shari Chang, an HTA member and senior vice president of Aloha
Airlines, said the HTA and others in the industry "want to
understand what impact cruise passengers will have on the
"But until we know what the NCL ship occupancy level is, no one
really knows [what the impact will be]," said Chang.
"If the [airlines] run at 50% occupancy, that's a lot different
than if they run full."
Kelvin Bloom, chief operating officer of Aston Hotels &
Resorts, said his company is concerned about airlift, but at the
same time, he sees a growing cruise industry here as benefiting
"Airlift to Hawaii is always an issue because of our geographic
location," said Bloom. "Particularly during heavy demand periods
like Christmas and New Year's, airlift is of concern.
"The fact that the HTA formed a committee to look into this is a
good thing," he continued. "We all stand to benefit from the big
cruise lines coming here in increased advertising, public relations
and promotion, but there is no question there is a concern in
respect to airlift."
Stan Brown, vice president of Marriott's Pacific Island
division, said he is confident the airlines will step up and
deliver the added capacity.
"I would expect the airline industry will yield-manage its
inventory to fill seats around peak times," said Brown. "There will
also likely be increased pre- and post-visits of the cruise
passengers around the islands, which should help level the air
demand around key departure dates and potentially increase demand
for hotel rooms, as well."