Hawaiian expects Asia-Pacific region to be driver of growth

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Hawaiian Airlines expects the Asia-Pacific region to play a major role in the airline's growth over the coming years.

The airline's chief executive Mark Dunkerley says it has been expanding the number of routes it serves in countries such as Japan and Australia, where inbound tourism to Hawaii has been strong.

"If you look at the global economy, you can see rising standards of living all around the Pacific rim, certainly in relative terms compared to the USA and western Europe, and we absolutely want to take advantage of that global shift," he says.

Strong currencies in some markets and a growing appetite for travel by Asia's emerging middle class are helping to drive strong traffic growth for the airline, while dictating where it has been deploying its capacity at the same time.

Dunkerley says Australia is a good example of how the strong Australian dollar, relative to the US dollar, is helping to drive traffic.

The carrier increased its capacity on the daily Sydney-Honolulu service in May, by replacing the 262-seat Boeing 767-300ER it uses with a larger, 294-seat Airbus A330-200.

It also launched a second Australian destination on 26 November and now flies three times a week to Brisbane with a 767-300ER.

Brisbane is the fourth new destination this year for the airline, following the launch of flights to Fukuoka, Sapporo and New York.

It will launch a thrice weekly service to Auckland from 14 March 2013, using A330s.

Dunkerley also has his sights set on launching services from Honolulu to China, a market he says has great potential and is currently being served through an interline agreement with Air China.

"We have established sales teams in China and we are already selling Hawaii as a destination over Korea as an early test of how we might best approach this immense market," he says.

While the carrier has grown its network through the region, Dunkerley says the geography of Honolulu does not make it conducive to connect passengers from Asia through to the mainland USA.

"If you look at northeastern Asia, Honolulu is so far away from the great circle route that it is a fairly circuitous connecting point," he says.

However, he sees great potential for the airline to offer onward services to travellers who want to combine a trip to the mainland USA into their itinerary.

"With 11 cities we serve in the USA mainland, I think we're pretty well positioned to start tapping into some of that pattern of travel," he says.