Available seats on nonstop flights to Hawaii are expected to increase substantially during the third quarter of this year, jumping 12.6% when compared with the same three-month period in 2011, and are currently outpacing the Q3 peak set back in 2007 by 2.6%.
“We’ve seen good growth from all markets,” said David Uchiyama, Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) vice president for brand management. “And we’re continuing to see potential growth. We’ve had quite a lot of dialogue with carriers that aren’t currently serving Hawaii, and there are some variables that are definitely helping, like currency exchange; the cost for a barrel of oil is down, so fuel prices are shrinking some; and I think we are at a time where demand for Hawaii is peaking.”
Of the more than 2.6 million available air seats the HTA is forecasting through July, August and September of this year, better than 1.8 million of them will arrive on nonstop flights from the U.S. mainland, a boost of 10.4% year over year.
While seats coming from the U.S. West will likely climb 8.8%, those from the U.S. East are expected to jump 25% over the same quarter last year, due in large part to new service launched in June by Hawaiian Airlines, between Honolulu and New York Kennedy, and by United Airlines, between Honolulu and Washington.
The HTA is, however, expecting reduced seat capacity from Portland, Ore., down 25.2%, and Chicago, off 14.4%.
Seats from Japan, Hawaii’s second-largest source market, continue to recover following last year’s devastating earthquake and tsunami and are projected to increase 15.4% year over year. Those from South Korea will likely surge 55%, thanks to new daily service by Hawaiian and Asiana connecting Seoul with Honolulu.
Although capacity from Canada will remain essentially unchanged, air seats from Oceania are projected to increase by nearly 30% year over year.
Asked if 2012 might return Hawaii to the peak annual air seat figures posted prior to the failures of Aloha Airlines and ATA in 2008, Uchiyama said the destination was getting close but added some important clarification.
“One thing to keep in mind is that roughly 500,000 seats were in the market then because of the additional NCL ships that we had in Hawaii,” he said. “Now you take those ships out of the market, and you take away those half a million air seats annually, and we’re getting pretty close to that 2006, 2007 seat inventory.”
The HTA’s Q3 available air seat forecast is based on OAG and Diio Mi flight schedules as of June 2012.