Shane Nelson
Shane Nelson

InsightNews that several U.S. carriers will reduce flights to Hawaii during the second half of this year generated headlines in several Aloha State media outlets last week, signaling a possible decrease in demand for a destination that enjoyed record-breaking visitor spending and arrivals figures in 2012.

According to a flight schedule provided by the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau (HVCB), Alaska Airlines will reduce nonstop service between the U.S. West Coast and the Hawaiian Islands by 7.4% during the second half of 2013, with the biggest decreases occurring on routes from Oakland and San Jose, Calif.

United Airlines is planning to cut nonstop flights to Hawaii from U.S. gateways by 6.1%, with the largest reductions coming from the carrier’s Washington Dulles-Honolulu service as well as cutbacks on its San Francisco-Kahului, Maui, segment and Los Angeles-Honolulu route.

ShaneNelsonHawaiian Airlines, which recently reported a $17.1 million loss for the first quarter of 2013, is enacting service reductions, as well, according to a spokesman for the company.

The carrier is suspending its thrice-weekly flight between San Jose and Honolulu this month and dropping its Honolulu-Las Vegas service from 17 flights a week to 14 in May and June. Hawaiian will also reduce its current daily, nonstop service between Honolulu and New York Kennedy to five times weekly beginning in mid-September, though the service will return to daily for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

A number of Hawaii hoteliers refuse to be discouraged by that news and are still expecting solid third- and fourth-quarter bookings from the North American market. 

Jerry Westenhaver, the general manager of the 1,229-room Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort & Spa, said he doesn’t think the scheduled second-half air seat cuts from the U.S. mainland will impact Oahu dramatically.

“We just finished a record first quarter, and the second quarter is on the same pace,” he said of the Hyatt Regency Waikiki’s business. “We really don’t see storm clouds on the horizon right now.”

Jon Conching, Hilton Hawaii’s regional vice president of sales and marketing, shared a similarly optimistic outlook.

“For the second half of the year, from July and through the summer, we are seeing good increases, approximately 5% to 7% over the previous year,” he said. “From September on, [we're seeing] slightly higher demand, but that’s still outside the primary booking window.”

Evidence of continued momentum on the heels of the Aloha State’s record-setting 2012 certainly exists in the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s (HTA) March visitor industry report. According to their data, travelers spent $3.9 billion across the state through the first three months of this year, an all-time high for the first quarter.

In interviews with Travel Weekly earlier this year, however, HTA President and CEO Mike McCartney has said he expects Hawaii’s dramatic year-over-year growth to flatten out some in 2013. And in a statement released with the HTA’s March visitor statistics, McCartney mentioned some worrisome metrics for the year ahead.

“Spending and arrivals have been on the upswing, but there has been a decrease in visitor average length of stay for markets like the U.S. West and Canada, which could be an indication that visitors may be reaching their spending threshold,” McCartney said. “Furthermore, the reduction of service from the U.S. East and U.S. West and the weakening Japanese yen could also have an effect on arrivals and spending this year.”

This article has been updated to reflect that Alaska Airlines will reduce its flights by 7.4% and United Airlines by 6.1%. The numbers were swapped in an earlier version of this article

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