By ERIN MILLER
Hawaiian Airlines has the weight of several elected officials — including Gov. Neil Abercrombie and Sen. Daniel Inouye — behind its application for a direct Kona-Haneda, Japan, flight, an official said Thursday.
The company is hoping the public will weigh in with its support, as well, in the form of letters to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, said Ann Botticelli, senior vice president for corporate communications and public affairs.
“It would be great to hear people offer examples of how this route would affect their lives,” Botticelli said, after a trip to Kona. “The thing they can focus on is just how the route would benefit Kona.”
Small business owners might note the impact renewed direct airlift from Japan into the Big Island would have on their establishments, she added. People looking for work — or better work — might talk about the new job opportunities that come up when more visitors come to Kona.
Hawaiian Airlines, in its application, predicted passenger traffic from Japan to Honolulu would increase by more than 72,000 passengers, based on the company’s new flight from Haneda to Honolulu in 2010. Passenger counts actually grew by 227,626 passengers, with increases on Hawaiian’s flights and two Japanese carriers. The company projected adding the service to Kona would bring another $74 million to Hawaii’s economy, and “typical economic indicators” predict another $135 million in U.S. gross domestic product growth. That would support another 1,400 jobs, mostly on Hawaii Island, the company said.
Mayor Billy Kenoi said Hawaii County officials have continued to ask Inouye, as recently as last week, for continued support of Kona International Airport keeping the international designation and the associated customs and immigration employees needed for incoming flights.
Getting a daily flight from Japan “does mean jobs,” Kenoi said. “It does mean economic investment.”
The flights aren’t just good for inbound passengers, the mayor said. It also opens up the market for Hawaii’s agricultural products — coffee, seafood and grass-fed beef, for example — to be flown directly to Japan on a daily basis.
Botticelli said federal officials are placing a heavy emphasis on the community benefit the route would bring. People who wish to submit a letter may email it to Botticelli at email@example.com. She will then include it with the company’s filing next week.
Email Erin Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.