Thursday, March 14, 2013

Hawaiian Airlines launches non-stops to New Zealand

Hawaiian Airlines has launched non-stop service from Honolulu, Hawaii, to Auckland, New Zealand, making it the first U.S. carrier flying into Auckland.

As one who has longed to visit Down Under, I’ve been put off by the length of the flight. Now, as Hawaiian Airlines (NYSE:HA) noted in a statement it issued upon the occasion of the inaugural flight March 13, Hawai’i is a perfect midpoint destination. Slightly more than five hours flying time from Seattle, it will make a great place to start and end one’s vacation, perhaps by staying a night or two in each direction.

Hawaiian’s flight 445 will depart Honolulu International Airport (HNL) at 1:45 p.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, cross the international dateline, and land at Auckland Airport (AKL) at 9:55 p.m. the following day. Hawaiian’s return flight 446 will depart Auckland at 11:55 p.m. every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, cross the international dateline, and arrive in Honolulu at 9:45 a.m. the same day.

Travelers can use the "multi-city" function on Hawaiian's website and do not have to book separate flights from their home to HNL, then another from HNL to AKL. Using that option, travelers could leave the West Coast from Seattle, San Diego, or Las Vegas on Saturday, spent Saturday and Sunday night on O’ahu, then continue on to New Zealand on Monday.

As of March 17, a round-trip coach ticket from Seattle (SEA) to AUK without a stopover would cost $1,257 in coach (assuming outbound on April 8 and return on April 18). Leaving Seattle April 6 and returning from Honolulu on April 20 to allow a couple of days in the islands bumps the round-trip coach fare up to $1,860.39.  In this regard, Hawaiian Airlines could take a lesson from IcelandAir, which offers free stop-overs in Reykjavik of up to five days for its flights from the U.S. to Europe. However, such arrangements can apparently be made through third-party providers, such as PacificIslands.com.

According to the airline’s research, there’s pent-up demand for its new service in both directions. "We have been delighted by the interest in our new service, both here at home and in New Zealand,” Mark Dunkerley, Hawaiian’s president and CEO, said at the departure of the first flight.“The deep cultural connections between our islands and the islands of Aotearoa make New Zealand a natural destination for Hawaiian and for our singular brand of authentic Hawaiian hospitality.”

Hawaiian will operate three flights a week on the new route using a 294-seat A330-200 aircraft that will feature amenities including high-resolution LCD touch-screen monitors in each seatback, a state-of-the-art entertainment system that lets passengers choose from a wide range of movies, TV programs, music, and video games as well as a USB port for the use of their own personal media players. Customers in Business Class will also have iPod compatibility.

The airline’s market research indicates that non-stop service will release pent-up demand in New Zealand for a Hawai’i vacation. There are currently 30% fewer arrivals from New Zealand than in 1999 when the two destinations were served by more non-stop flights, airline officials said.

In fact, due to high demand for their new service, Hawaiian has already arranged to increase the number of flights from New Zealand from three to four per week during the peak period, leading New Zealand officials to expect a large number of travelers to take advantage of this new way of getting to New Zealand.

Tourism New Zealand, Hawaiian Airlines and Auckland Airport will be launching a new joint venture marketing campaign on March 19, offering a competitive fare for travelers from the West Coast to Auckland.

More details are available at Hawaiian Airlines’ web site.

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