JAL Celebrates 1st Year of Non-Stop Flights Between Tokyo and Kona
Japan Airlines marked the one-year anniversary of its round-trip nonstop service between Tokyo and Kailua-Kona over the weekend.
Executives of Japan Airlines, joined by government and tourism dignitaries from Honolulu and the island of Hawaiʻi, welcomed the 10:15 a.m. on-time arrival of flight JL770 on Saturday from Narita International Airport in Tokyo to Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keahole in Kailua-Kona.
The JAL SKY SUITE 767 (Boeing 767-300ER) aircraft, with a capacity of 199 seats, arrived with a completely full flight. Two hours later, at 12:15 p.m., return flight JL779 departed Kailua-Kona for Tokyo with a full flight of 199 passengers.
Special Ceremony Recognized One-Year Anniversary Flight
Prior to the departure of JL779, Japan Airlines held a special ceremony in the boarding gate area to mark the one-year anniversary. Kiyoto Morioka, senior vice president of the Americas for Japan Airlines, spoke on behalf of the airline, while Mike McCartney, chief of staff for Governor David Ige, Jade Butay, director of the Hawaiʻi State Department of Transportation, and George D. Szigeti, president and CEO of the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority, all expressed their appreciation for what Japan Airlines’ service has meant to the island of Hawaiʻi.
On behalf of Governor Ige, McCartney presented Japan Airlines with a framed declaration showing the lyrics to the song Alu Like to convey the ongoing partnership between the airline and State of Hawaiʻi. Butay noted how the state’s upgrading of the airport in Kailua-Kona will help accommodate Japan Airlines’ daily service. Szigeti highlighted the positive benefits of Japan Airlines’ restarted service to the island of Hawaiʻi’s economy.
Customers departing from Kailua-Kona were treated to a performance of Hawaiian music and hula, and presented with a fresh flower lei and gift bag featuring a specially designed cookie with an image of the island of Hawaiʻi to commemorate the occasion. All travelers taking the JAL outbound flight from Kailua-Kona through the end of October will receive the cookie.
The significance of Saturday’s anniversary celebration was especially meaningful to Morioka, who has maintained strong ties to the Kona region and island of Hawaiʻi since first coming to the island at age 17. It was his first international destination outside of Japan. Twenty years later, he was a key member of the team that opened the Kailua-Kona route for Japan Airlines in 1996.
Japan Airlines continued to serve the Tokyo to Kailua-Kona route until Oct. 30, 2010, when the service was suspended due to economic factors partly driven by the decline in travel demand caused by the global recession. At the time, Morioka promised Hawaiʻi’s government and travel leaders that Japan Airlines would reinstate service on the route one day. Seven years later, that day came on Sept. 15, 2017, when Japan Airlines relaunched flights between Tokyo and Kailua-Kona.
At Saturday’s ceremony, Morioka told the gathering, “It is my pleasure to celebrate the first anniversary of our Kona to Narita flight with you today. This day would not be possible without the support of countless individuals and organizations, including the State of Hawaiʻi, Department of Transportation, people of Hawaiʻi Island and our valued customers. My very first overseas destination at 17 years of age was to Kona. The image of Kona’s beautiful sunset that I experienced back then is still embedded in my mind.”
Morioka also addressed the value of the route to travelers from Japan and Hawaiʻi. “The island of Hawaiʻi offers the Japanese people nature’s magnificent attractions such as mountains, waterfalls, starlit skies and sunsets. Conversely, for those in Hawaiʻi interested in Japan, we would like them to travel and experience the beauty of Japan. It is our wish that more people from this island, not just from Kona but also those living in Hilo, will experience our direct Kona flight service to Tokyo.”
JAL Tokyo-Kona Service has Bolstered Island of Hawaiʻi’s Economy
Japan Airlines’ daily flights between Tokyo and Kailua-Kona have helped to bolster the island of Hawaiʻi’s economy. The Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority calculates the new route in the first year of service is responsible for injecting $73.49 million in visitor spending into the island’s economy, generating $8.58 million in state tax revenue, and is supporting 895 jobs on island.
The influx of travelers from Japan Airlines’ daily service helped lead to the establishment of the Kohala Coast Evening Shuttle. Introduced on April 1, seven Japan travel agencies, JTB, H.I.S., JALPAK, KNT, ANA Sales, NTA, and TTA, have collaborated to provide a free shuttle service that makes nine stops at resorts along the Kohala Coast so visitors can enjoy restaurants, retail shops and activities, without having to arrange independent transportation.
Morioka noted the island of Hawaiʻi is the most popular destination of the Hawaiian Islands for travelers from Japan, a key reason being Japan Airlines’ efforts to build interest in the route over the past two decades. The convenience of the daily nonstop service is giving residents of Japan more incentive to discover the variety of natural beauty, attractions and geography on the island.
Popular Model Jun Hasegawa Helping to Promote Route and Island of Hawaiʻi
This week, Japan Airlines revealed that its Tokyo-Kona route will receive a boost in attention with model Jun Hasegawa agreeing to help promote interest in the nonstop flights and the island of Hawaiʻi as a travel destination. Hasegawa’s involvement in supporting the Tokyo-Kona route is particularly noteworthy for personal reasons. In addition to being one of Japan’s most popular and widely recognized fashion models, Hasegawa was raised in Hilo and is a resident of Hawaiʻi when she is not modeling in Japan.