Hawaiian Airlines said Wednesday it will discontinue service to Taipei, Taiwan, the second international route that the state’s largest carrier has eliminated in the past week and the third in the past year.
The airline also said it will cut its flights to Seoul to five times a week from daily when it reassigns the 294-seat Airbus 330-200 aircraft previously used for Taipei to the South Korea route. The frequency reduction will cut the number of air seats from Seoul to Honolulu by 378 a week starting April 23 when Hawaiian switches to the A330 from a 264-seat Boeing 767-300ER. Hawaiian began service to Seoul in January 2011.
Hawaiian said the last flight from Honolulu to Taipei will be April 6 and the final return flight from Taipei will be April 7. The decision to discontinue its three-times-a-week service comes less than eight months after Hawaiian’s inaugural flight on July 9.
A week ago, Hawaiian announced it was dropping daily service between Honolulu and Fukuoka, Japan, in June. That service began in April 2012. Hawaiian ended its four-flights-per-week service to Manila on Aug. 1.
The Taipei flight was launched with great fanfare by Hawaiian with Gov. Neil Abercrombie traveling to Taiwan on the inaugural flight. Hawaiian inaugurated the service nine months after the United States said it would include Taiwan in the Visa Waiver Program, which permits visa-free travel to the U.S. for eligible travelers for up to 90 days for business or tourism. The program went into effect on Nov. 1, 2012.
“The increase in travelers we have come to expect, when the U.S. visa waiver was extended to additional countries, has not materialized in Taiwan, and it became evident very quickly that there is insufficient awareness of Hawaii among residents of Taiwan for nonstop service to be successful,” Hawaiian President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Dunkerley said in a statement.
Mike McCartney, president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, said, “While we understand that there has not been sufficient demand from Taipei to sustain a profitable route for Hawaiian Air, the HTA will continue to work with our marketing partners to stimulate and cultivate travel demand from this market.”
Hawaiian’s exit from Taipei will leave China Airlines as the only carrier with nonstop service between Taipei and Honolulu. China Airlines began twice-a-week service in June last year — one month before Hawaiian’s inaugural flight.
Visitor arrivals from Taiwan jumped 208 percent in 2013 to 27,013 from 8,769 in 2012, according to data from the Hawaii Tourism Authority.
The most recent available data from the U.S. Department of Transportation showed the seats on Hawaiian’s Taiwan flight were 75 percent full for its first two months of operation (July and August). China Airlines’ seats were 69 percent full in its first three months (June through August) of service.
Hawaiian rapidly expanded with nine new international routes — including Fukuoka and Taipei — since November 2010, as well as nonstop service to New York.
But Dunkerley, who estimates it costs approximately $100 million to open a new route, has said the company’s expansion will slow. So far this year, Hawaiian is planning only one new route: a daily flight to Beijing beginning April 16.
After Hawaiian cuts service from Taiwan, China Airlines likely will increase its rates, according to David Uchiyama, the HTA’s vice president of brand management. Once that happens, Uchiyama said, the onus is on the industry to work with the airlines to create enough demand so that frequency can eventually be increased.