By ERIN MILLER
Hawaiian Airlines won’t be adding a new route from Kailua-Kona to Tokyo.
The U.S. Department of Transportation on Thursday gave preliminary approval to Delta Air Lines for a Seattle to Tokyo route. Seattle is the largest West Coast city without a direct flight into the Haneda airport, federal officials said.
“In its show-cause order, the department tentatively concluded that it would be in the public interest to allow Delta to use the opportunity for service from Seattle,” a DOT announcement on Thursday said. “Delta’s proposal would provide the first nonstop service between Haneda and Seattle and provide a number of Western U.S. cities with their first one-stop connecting service to Haneda, (the) DOT tentatively found.”
Hawaiian Airlines Senior Vice President for Corporate Communications and Public Affairs Ann Botticelli thanked Big Island residents for voicing their support of the route to the DOT.
“We believe our application was extremely strong, and did the best job of outlining the public benefit provided to Hawaii and the United States of (a) new Tokyo-Kona service,” Botticelli said in a written statement. “We very much appreciate the enthusiasm you demonstrated for our application, and we know you share our disappointment as well. Like you, we wish there had been a different outcome, but we look forward to an ongoing strong relationship with the Kona community.”
In an email to Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce members, President Vivian Landrum expressed disappointment in the decision.
“While dismayed at the decision, we will continue to work with all organizations in seeking additional airlift to Kona,” Landrum said.
Several of Hawaii’s elected officials, including Sen. Daniel Inouye and Gov. Neil Abercrombie, threw their support behind Hawaiian Airlines’ request to add the Kona-Haneda route.
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” predicted another $135 million in U.S. gross domestic product growth. That would support another 1,400 jobs, mostly on Hawaii Island, the company said.
Email Erin Miller at email@example.com.