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Hawaii can only get so many more visits from the U.S. west coast and Japan, but China holds the greatest opportunities for growth.
Hawaiian Airlines won’t be the only carrier flying nonstop between Honolulu and Beijing next year.
Air China has issued a notice that the state-owned carrier will begin three-days-a-week service between the two cities beginning Jan. 21 as part of its winter schedule, according to Routes, an online website focused on aviation route development.
“This is good news because it will benefit Hawaii,” said Hawaii Tourism Authority CEO Mike McCartney on Thursday.
“We’ve been working on China as a developing new market. Increased air access has been a priority for us for a long time, and David Uchiyama (HTA’s vice president of brand management) is on his way there to follow up on this and other opportunities. In any developing market there’s a lot of work to be done to create a strong, long-term relationship.”
Air China, which has no other routes to Hawaii, will beat by three months the April debut between Honolulu and Beijing by Hawaiian Airlines. That service also will be three times a week.
“This is part of our long-term strategy to diversify departure cities in multiple major markets in Asia,” McCartney said.
Air China, founded in 1988, is headquartered in Beijing. As of Dec. 31 Air China and its holding companies operated 284 routes covering 29 countries and regions and 145 cities.
Hawaiian and Air China will join China Eastern Airlines in connecting passengers between Honolulu and the country that tourism leaders see as the next growth market for the islands.
China Eastern flies three times a week between Honolulu and Shanghai and plans to increase its frequency to five times a week in December.
For the first seven months of this year, Chinese visitors to Hawaii were up 18.6 percent to 81,104 from 68,403 in the year-ago period.