Travel demand to Hawaiʻi from the US mainland has recovered to pre-pandemic levels, and although there is strong demand recovery from Oceania and Korea, recovery from Japan is progressing very slowly.
That’s one of the key points shared by Hawaiian Airlines President and Chief Executive Officer Peter Ingram during a keynote address before the Maui Chamber of Commerce during the organization’s annual luncheon held Thursday at the Maui Beach Hotel in Kahului.
Ingram also explained that while low fares can stimulate neighbor island travel demand, the long term trend for neighbor island travel is declining.
In his outlook for 2023, Ingram said that while economic uncertainty looms, historically, leisure travel to Hawaiʻi has held up well.
Maui Now’s Wendy Osher talked one-on-one with the airline executive, who shared a business update and what’s to come for Hawaiian Airlines in 2023, including a new partnership with Amazon that will help to diversify the airline’s portfolio.
OSHER: You gave a presentation on the outlook for 2023. What can we expect ahead for Hawaiian Airlines?
INGRAM: I think it’s going to be a very busy year. The last couple of years, we’ve talked about recovery, and really, things are largely recovered. Now it’s about getting back and running a really good airline, delivering on our promises to our guests, and getting back to running efficient so that we can restore our profitability and continue to reinvest in the business on behalf of our guests.
OSHER: You had spoken about, specifically, construction impacts at the Daniel K Inouye International Airport in Honolulu, and long TSA lines at Kahului Airport on Maui. Can you touch upon the infrastructure challenges airlines face?
INGRAM: Yes, It’s no secret that we’ve had challenges with congestion in or lobby for a number of years in Honolulu. When I was reviewing in the presentation a number of investments we’re making to make that a better experience for our guests. Here in Maui, we saw very long lines at the TSA at peak periods last year, and we know that there are some investments that need to be made in the infrastructure. We’re going to work with TSA and with the state Department of Transportation to make sure those investments get made. In the interim, we’ve got to make the best of the facilities we have, and try to be as efficient as possible. So it’s really just about acknowledging the fact that there are always areas where we want to make our guest experience better, and we’ve got to continue to invest and work with our partners to make sure that’s happening.
OSHER: I also heard you mention a partnership with Amazon. Can you tell us how that’s going to work out, when it’s going to start, and who’s involved?
INGRAM: For us, it feels like it started already, but we haven’t actually flown any flights for Amazon yet. What we’re going to be responsible for is flying 10 aircraft, and potentially more in the future for Amazon–flying parcels between their distribution centers on the mainland and here in Hawaiʻi. The deal lasts for eight years and it can grow, so it’s an exciting opportunity of growth for us. As a result of that, we’re going to be continuing to hire more pilots, more mechanics, people to support that operation, and it helps us to diversity our business, and is an exciting opportunity. A lot of that work has been underway already. The flying is not going to start until this fall, but we’ve got dozens of employees working throughout our company to make sure we’ve got the plans in place to execute on that well.
OSHER: This past year you ramped up with the post-COVID situation. There were a lot of flights that resumed service. Can you give us an overview of the flights that are now in operation and what you plan in 2023 for returning flights?
INGRAM: Over the course of 2022, we restored most of our international network. Domestic was up and running before that, but internationally, this year, we ramped up Sydney in Australia, we brought Aukland, New Zealand back on to our network, [and] we’ve increased our service into Seoul, South Korea. In Japan, where the post-COVID reopening has happened later, we have now got a daily flight to Haneda, Osaka, and Narita. So three destinations in Japan. Over time, as Japan fully recovers, we’re going to get back to Fukuoka, and get back to Sapporo, and fully restore our network in Japan. And then we’re always looking for new places to fly, and as we get the 787at the end of this year, and start flying it next year, that’s going to give us some growth opportunities, and we’ll be looking for the next new spot on the map.