Flying higher

LIHUE — It was a record-breaking year for Hawaiian Airlines.

The airline reported a record in its 85-year history with 10.1 million passengers in 2014 — a 2.6 percent higher than the previous year.

Hawaii Airlines President and CEO Mark Dunkerley personally welcomed the company’s 10 millionth passenger in December with Hawaiian music and hula at the gate. Maui-native Harrison Matthews was presented with a 250,000 HawaiianMiles gift prior to his Flight 386 to Kahului, with all other passengers receiving 1,000 HawaiianMiles.

Hawaiian Airlines spokesperson Huy Vo said it took nearly 40 years to carry the first 10 million passengers since the airline started in 1929.

“What took us 40 years to do back then, took us only 12 months in 2014,” Vo said.

Hawaiian Airlines does not share market specific numbers but Vo said a number of factors contributed to this achievement, including new direct summer seasonal routes launched in 2014 between Lihue and Oakland and Lihue and Los Angeles.

“They were so successful that we are bringing them back again this summer,” Vo said.

One official said the record happened in part because of Kauai county and tourism industry efforts to target flights here while seeking new markets.

County Director of Economic Development George Costa said the ongoing, tireless effort for years has been to encourage the airlines, including long-time partner Hawaiian Airlines, to market to visitors in hubs around the world that love Kauai’s style of vacationing. This combined work includes Kauai Visitors Bureau, in collaboration with the county and the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

“It’s nice to see that these efforts are being rewarded with the increase in airline seats to Kauai of almost 4 percent in the first half of 2014, and Hawaiian’s new direct flights from Oakland and Los Angeles in the second half of the year continue to show promise for the Kauai market,” Costa said. “This is also a benefit for our residents who want to fly direct to Mainland cities, and it could create additional employment opportunities for Kauai residents as Hawaiian expands operations.”

Hawaiian Airlines is the largest provider of passenger air service from primary visitor markets on the Mainland, with nonstop service from 11 gateway cities, along with Japan, South Korea, China, Australia, New Zealand, American Samoa and Tahiti.

Hawaiian also provides 160 jet flights daily between the Hawaiian Islands, with more than 200 daily flights systemwide.

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