Hawaiian Airlines wants to be bigger in Japan with JAL partnership

Sep 25, 2019

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Hawaiian Airlines is about to get a whole lot bigger in Japan, its largest market outside the U.S., under a new partnership with Japan Airlines.

The carriers are seeking a joint venture covering flights between Hawaii and Japan. The pact, if approved by regulators, would allow them to act as essentially a single carrier in the market. The airlines say that will allow them to offer better schedules and improve connections for passengers.

Related: Hawaiian Airlines and Japan Airlines Want to Form a Joint Venture

Hawaiian is betting that the partnership will allow it to open up the interior of Japan to travelers. The Honolulu-based airline currently serves Osaka Kansai (KIX), Tokyo’s Haneda (HND) and Narita (NRT) airports, and Sapporo (CTS) in Japan. It also will begin service to Fukuoka (FUK) in November.

The airline already sees a lot of travelers from other points in Japan on its flights to Honolulu (HNL) and Kona (KOA), Hawaiian vice-president of revenue management and network planning Brent Overbeek told TPG at the World Routes conference in Adelaide, Australia, on Sunday. Many of these passengers travel to one of the carrier’s gateways over ground for their flights to Hawaii, he added.

The JAL partnership would allow Hawaiian to book travelers directly to and from their connecting destinations in Japan, be it Kobe (UKB), Nagasaki (NGS) or Sendai (SDJ). JAL will be able to market and sell Hawaiian tickets, while the U.S. carrier will do the same for it in Hawaii.

“It will be very interesting and exciting for us to see how the partnership evolves,” said Overbeek.

Hawaiian’s new flight to Haneda, which begins in March, will be timed to connect to domestic flights on JAL, he added.

Related: Hawaiian Outlines Plans for New Flight to Tokyo Haneda

However, beyond a codeshare agreement, the two carriers cannot begin their deeper cooperation until the U.S. rules on their joint venture application. The enhanced pact would allow Hawaiian and JAL to do everything from coordinate schedules to conduct joint marketing and sales efforts.

“I’m hopeful there’ll be some positive news in the next week or two,” said Overbeek, pointing to the fact that the DOT’s typical 180-day evaluation period is almost over. Once the regulator rules, the decision will be open for comment for 30 days before a final decision.

The Hawaiian-JAL partnership is just one of several in front of U.S. officials. American Airlines is seeking a joint venture with LATAM Airlines, having already received approval for a Qantas Airways tie up in July. Delta Air Lines is seeking two pacts: an expanded transatlantic agreement with Air France, KLM and Virgin Atlantic Airways, and another with WestJet.

Related: American, Qantas meeting to map out transpacific partnership

Airlines tout joint ventures as beneficial to passengers by providing travelers with more and better service. While not every agreement is the same, they typically involve adjacent airport facilities, reciprocal frequent flier and elite benefits, and joint lounge access.

Featured image by Getty Images.

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