Hawaiian Airlines has given up slots for flights to Tokyo’s Haneda airport from Honolulu and Kona effective 2 April, blaming “current market conditions”.

The cancelled flights are four-times-weekly service from Honolulu and thrice-weekly connections from Kona, on Hawaii’s Big Island.

“Hawaiian did not take this decision lightly,” the company said in a filing with the US Department of Transportation (DOT) on 26 January. “Having invested significant time and resources into building its Haneda operation, Hawaiian resumed the night-time service in October 2023 and has incrementally increased service throughout the current winter scheduling season.”


Source: Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian returns slots for flights to Tokyo’s Haneda airport

“However, current market conditions make continued operation of the flight economically unviable,” the airline says in the document.

Hawaiian adds that the “difficult operating conditions” are related to the Covid-19 pandemic and associated travel restrictions, and the night flight has historically been the weakest flight in Hawaiian’s Haneda operations.

“Asia and Japan specifically have been among the last markets to recover from the precipitous drop in travel demand” after the Covid-19 crisis, the company says. ”While Hawaiian saw improvement throughout the second and third quarters of 2023, the recovery stalled when load factors dropped as waivers of the slot and route usage requirements expired.”

Hawaiian relies heavily on its Japan business, and prior to the pandemic, almost 90% of the airline’s Tokyo business was Japan-originating, compared to 39% for other US carriers serving Haneda, the airline says.

But while business steadily gained traction throughout 2023, Japan point-of-sale indirect channel bookings had only recovered about 34%. That slow recovery can be attributed to a much more unfavourable exchange rate for Japanese travellers, and the explosion of the price of accommodation in Hawaii, pushing the cost of a trip out of reach for many.

“Hawaii’s and Hawaiian’s disproportionate reliance on Japan point of sale business has made it difficult to generate sufficient demand to meet the capacity that returned to the market after the expiration of the slot waivers in October,” the company adds.

Considering these factors, Hawaiian says it does not see a turnaround “in the reasonably foreseeable future”.

Hawaiian, which is set to be acquired by Alaska Airlines, is due to report fourth-quarter and full year 2023 results on 30 January.