New Zealand is to get a new direct airline service to Hawaii starting in a fortnight’s time.
Hawaiian Airlines is launching an Auckland to Honolulu service on March 14, as it expands its influence in the Pacific.
“The strength of the New Zealand dollar, Qantas’ decision to leave the market and our own organic growth which has shown us around the Pacific rim there is pent-up demand for a Hawaii vacation,” says chief executive Mark Dunkerley.
Auckland will be the 11th Pacific destination for the airline which was established in 1929, joining Brisbane, Sydney and Pago Pago, Samoa as key destinations in the south Pacific.
But they are not the first to try to expand to New Zealand, where Air New Zealand is well-entrenched. Ansett, Pacific Blue and Qantas have all been unable to wrestle the market from the national carrier’s clutches. Mr Dunkerley says this is something Hawaiian Airlines is used to.
“Everywhere we fly we compete against embedded national carriers, so we’re used to competition,” he says. “We’ve just gotta get out there and compete.”
At today’s launch Mr Dunkerley was keen to emphasise the cultural similarities between the two destinations. He says the airline will be investing heavily in New Zealand culture.
“As important supporters of Hawaiian cultural values we’re eager to be down here working with the Maori community to really foster those relationships,” says Mr Dunkerley.
While an eight-hour flight to Hawaii may not be the first destination for Kiwis wanting an island holiday, the airline is attempting to get around this by departing at midnight - meaning new arrivals are on the ground in Honolulu at 7am local time.
It is also hoping to build a market of short stopovers for people before they head to the United States – it flies to 10 western seaboard cities and added its first eastern US destination, New York, last year.
Mr Dunkerley hopes this goes both ways, with the airline bringing Americans back to New Zealand.
“New Zealand’s a terrific country, it’s got a lot to offer, it is a country that unfortunately a lot of Americans think is a long way away. We’re going to do our part to break that perception.”
Hawaiian Airlines will fly from Auckland on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, departing at 11:55pm from March 14th. The airline says gluten free and allergy-aware meals are not currently available but vegetarian meals and gluten-free snack options are offered.