China Airlines may consider new Hawai‘i route

Gov. Linda Lingle on Friday announced she has secured a personal commitment by China Airlines to retain existing flights to Honolulu, even during the current international economic slowdown.

This includes two direct flights between Taipei and Honolulu on Thursdays and Sundays, and flights on the other five days of the week which have stopovers in Tokyo.

Lingle met with China Airlines Chairman Philip Wei during her official state visit to Taiwan this week. Increasing tourism outreach and marketing to new and emerging markets is a key component of the Lingle-Aiona administration’s five-point proactive action plan to bolster the economy and create jobs, a news release from the governor’s office says.

During the governor’s meeting, Wei also stated his commitment to consider instituting direct airline service between China to Honolulu through Taipei in the future.

Founded in 1959, Taiwan-based China Airlines offers worldwide flights with routes to major cities in the United States, Europe, Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia.

“This announcement by China Airlines is welcome news for our state as we work to increase arrivals from emerging markets,” Lingle said in the release. “I am grateful to Chairman Wei for recognizing the value of service between mainland China and our state.

“The success of the visitor industry continues to be very important to our economy. By adding new air service and increasing the number of flights to Hawai‘i, we can attract more visitors to our islands as well as preserve and create jobs in this sector and in the other related industries that depend on tourism in our state,” she added.

Through September of this year, visitors to Hawai‘i from China were up 4 percent to 40,535 travelers compared to the same period last year. These numbers are expected to increase in the future, thanks to a memorandum of understanding signed between the United States and China that allows Chinese to travel to the U.S. for leisure.

In June, Lingle welcomed one of the first delegations from China to visit Hawai‘i under the MOU.

Traveling separately from the governor, Lt. Gov. James Aiona last week met with airline officials in South Korea.

The Korean airline industry is optimistic about expanding air service to Hawai‘i in the wake of Korea becoming a Visa Waiver country this month, a news release states. Starting next year, Korean Airlines will be adding seat capacity to their daily service to Honolulu. Asiana Airlines president Joo-An Kang also confirmed that service to Hawai‘i is being considered positively for the near future.

This week, Aiona met with top airline officials in Japan including Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airways, United and Northwest Airlines, all of whom expressed a commitment to continuing their existing service to Hawai‘i and reiterated the important role Hawai‘i plays in their Asian operations.

“We had very positive discussions in Korea and Japan. The airlines and travel sellers continue to be optimistic about the Hawai‘i market,” Aiona said in a press release. “We are encouraged by the continued commitment that our Japan travel partners are demonstrating to Hawai‘i. We also look forward to increased tourism from South Korea and the additional airlift next year.”

Lingle was in Shanghai on Friday to discuss the need for air service to Hawai‘i, attend the China International Travel Mart, Asia’s largest international travel industry show, and meet with government officials, travel leaders, tour wholesalers, airlines, travel writers and other travel businesses from Asia and around the globe. Twenty-two Hawai‘i visitor industry businesses and organizations are participating in the Travel Mart in a coordinated effort to encourage travel to Hawai‘i.

Additional information on Lingle and Aiona’s Asia trips and schedules as well as the five-point economic proactive action plan can be found online at www.hawaii.gov/gov.

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