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Hawaiian touches down on the US east coast

Hawaiian Airlines will be hitting the US East Coast in June when it launches long-haul flights from Honolulu to New York Kennedy (JFK) airport.

The carrier hinted at an East Coast launch in August last year as more Airbus A330s come on line. Hawaiian is adding four of the widebody aircraft in 2012, to reach a year-end total of nine.

Tied to Hawaiian's New York launch is a new partnership with JetBlue to feed into the JFK-based carrier's US East Coast network. Hawaiian's wish is to make the new partnership a full-blown codeshare. Carrier chief executive Mark Dunkerley recently cited a degree of "ambiguity" in that regard, noting Hawaiian was in discussions with employees to deepen the relationship with JetBlue. "Everyone would like to see a codeshare: that is certainly our intention," he says.

Residents in the New York metropolitan area already have access to direct flights to Honolulu with United-Continental, which serves the market from its Newark hub. United-Continental answered Hawaiian's arrival on the East Coast by unveiling plans to introduce new flights from its Washington Dulles hub to Honolulu in June.

Dunkerley seems unconcerned by United's moves, stressing that Hawaiian's connecting pattern with JetBlue "does not actually connect to Washington DC, so it does not affect our forecast for the New York route".

Still, Hawaiian faces questions on how it intends to compete on an historically tough route from Honolulu to JFK. Noting that most of the major carriers serve Hawaii through one-stop connections via their hubs, Dunkerley assures Hawaiian knows the traffic flows of the market.

"One of the reasons why we didn't serve this market over the course of the last decade, and indeed why nobody did, is yields on the continental portion of a connecting itinerary to Hawaii were low," says Dunkerley. "As a consequence the trip cost to Hawaii was unattractive." But now Dunkerley concludes that in a world "in which domestic continental yields are going up, the yields for Hawaii are firming. We now believe that the fare and cost environment is attractive."

"With yields going up, we now believe the fare and cost environment is attractive"