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Hawaiian to exit China despite predictions of surging demand

Hawaiian Airlines will suspend service to Beijing this fall, exiting the Chinese market despite repeated insistence by top executives in recent years that China is key to the carrier's future.

The Honolulu-based airline entered the Chinese market in April 2014 with the Beijing route, which it currently serves three-times weekly using Airbus A330-200s.

Hawaiian still only serves Beijing in China, and will stop flying the route after 12 October, it says.

"These decisions are never easy and this one is especially difficult because we believe in China's future as a robust market for the Hawaiian vacation experience," says Hawaiian chief executive Peter Ingram in a media release. "We will continue to market one-stop options to Honolulu from cities throughout China on our airline partners."

Those partners include codeshare mate Air China, which also serves the Beijing-Honolulu route three-times weekly using A330s, FlightGlobal schedules show.

No other airlines fly the route.

Despite its departure, Hawaiian eventually "intends to return to China" with nonstop flights and will therefore maintain a partnership with its sales agent in the country, the release says.

"In the meantime, we will re-deploy our aircraft to pursue other opportunities consistent with Hawaiian's expansion plans," says Ingram.

Hawaiian did not respond immediately when asked to elaborate on why it will depart China.

For years, Hawaiian's former CEO Mark Dunkerley described China as a land of significant opportunity for Hawaiian, predicting demand in China for Hawaiian vacations was poised to surge. “China will eventually be the dominant source of visitors to Hawaii,” Dunkerley told FlightGlobal in 2016. “Whether it will be in five or 50 years, I don’t know, but we… want to be part of that story.”

Dunkerley retired from Hawaiian earlier this year and was succeeded by Ingram.

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