InsightHawaii welcomed two new nonstop flights from the U.S. East Coast last week as Hawaiian Airlines’ launched daily service to Honolulu from New York’s Kennedy Airport June 5, followed by the debut of United Airlines’ daily flight between Honolulu and Washington Dulles June 7.

The new routes make up a sizeable portion of the more than 20% surge in available air seats Hawaii tourism officials are forecasting for the Islands from the Eastern U.S. this summer.

In its latest air seat capacity outlook, the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) projected over 2.4 million available seats will arrive on nonstop flights to the Islands during June, July and August, a 12.6% jump over the same period last year. Nearly 2 million of those will come from cities on the U.S. mainland, outpacing summer 2011 by 10.3%.

“We’ve brought back almost all of the lift that we lost,” Mike McCartney, the HTA president and CEO, said at the 15th annual Travel Weekly Leadership Forum late last month in Waikiki, noting the importance of the new Hawaiian and United East Coast service. “Connectivity to the [continental] U.S. has never been better.”

Hawaii saw a record 10.4 million domestic and international seats arrive in the Islands during 2007 but suffered a devastating 15% cut in available airlift following the collapse of Aloha Airlines and ATA in the spring of 2008.

The destination has been slowly recovering air seats since 2009, thanks in large part to new routes offered by domestic carriers like Alaska Airlines, and the state’s tourism officials are hopeful 2012’s totals will eclipse the peak lift figure set five years ago.

Hawaii has also enjoyed substantial increases in airlift on nonstop flights from destinations outside the U.S. in recent years and is expected to see a nearly 19% jump in available seats from international cities this summer. More than 490,000 of them will come from Japan, up 19.5% over June, July and August last year, while seats from Seoul, South Korea, are forecast to climb 44%.

Substantial seat losses are projected this summer, however, from U.S. destinations like California's Orange County (down 95.5%); Denver (down 40.5%); Portland, Ore. (a 22.5% drop); and Chicago (a 21.6% loss). 
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