Hawaiian maintains Asia focus even with Fukuoka cut

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Hawaiian Airlines' long-term growth prospects remain in the Asia-Pacific region even after its decision to end service to Fukuoka in June, says chief executive Mark Dunkerley.

The growth of the region’s middle class, especially in developing economies outside Japan, and their increasing desire for leisure travel will continue to be the Honolulu-based carrier’s focus, he says in a speech at the Wings Club in New York today.

“It really is a terrific, terrific opportunity for Hawaiian Airlines and Hawaii,” says Dunkerley.

On the decision to end service to Fukuoka, he says that the route “did not grow according to our expectations” since service began in 2012.

Some Wall Street analysts have speculated that competition with Delta Air Lines, which can more easily absorb losses stemming from both low load factors and a weak Japanese yen, on the Honolulu-Fukuoka route.

The aircraft freed up by ending Fukuoka flights will be used to maintain frequencies on other routes that were slated for schedule reductions, says Dunkerley.

Hawaiian does not plan much growth over the next few years as it network matures, executives have said. However, the addition of the Airbus A350-800 will allow it to look at new cities beyond the range limits of its existing Airbus A330 fleet after deliveries begin in 2017, Dunkerley says.

“The A350 gives us the flexibility to grow more deeply into Asia and also to grow, potentially, to Europe and Latin America,” he says.

Bangkok, Perth and Singapore are three destinations that are possible with the new Airbus widebody, says Dunkerley.

The maximum payload range of Hawaiian’s A330s limits it to just cities on the coast of northern Asia.

The status of the airline’s order for the A350-800, which most other customers have converted to orders of the -900, stands at six firm with six options, says Dunkerley.

“We’re in discussions with Airbus, and we’ve not reached…,” he says before trailing off when asked about a possible conversion to the A350-900.