In what is excellent news for Hawaii Island, Hawaiian Airlines has told the United States Department of Transportation it wants to add a daily nonstop flight between Kona and Tokyo International Airport, also known as Harada Airport. But there’s no guarantee the DOT will grant the request.
Japan Airlines used to have a daily flight between Kona and Tokyo’s Narita Airport. JAL cancelled that flight at the end of October, 2010. Since then, the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce leadership and local hotels have been concerned about Kona International Airport being able to maintain its “international” designation. The airport has Customs and Immigration services; if removed, it would make it far more difficult to get an international flight. Mayor Billy Kenoi and the Hawaii Visitors Bureau both statewide and on the island have been lobbying airlines for more airlift, and specifically to return an international flight to help tourism here on Hawaii Island. There have been charter flights from Japan directly to Kona since the cancellation of JAL’s flight.
The Japan Airlines flight, which went Kona-Honolulu-Narita-Kona, brought around 75,000 passengers a year to the island from 1996 through October, 2010. The flights also served as cargo carriers for some Hawaii Island products that were exported to Japan.
The U. S. Department of Transportation only grants so many slots to fly to Haneda. Delta Airlines currently flies from Detroit to Haneda, and they plan to suspend that route on September 30. They’re asking for the ok to transfer that service from Detoir to Seattle, but the DOT has invited other carriers to apply for the route allocation if they decide to assign it to another airline.
Hawaiian Airlines says they’ll need the support of the community for the application.
If the request is granted, Hawaiian plans to begin the Kona-Haneda route around March 15. In their application they noted that Kona is the second-largest destination market from Tokyo without nonstop air service.
There is no deadline by which the DOT has to make their decision.