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JAL flight gets special aloha greeting

Mayor Billy Kenoi greeted 230 passengers on board a chartered JAL 767 from Tokyo arriving today at Kona International Airport at 7:45 a.m. The visitors were given a warm aloha welcome of flower lei, hula, Hawaiian music and refreshments. (Photo courtesy of Big Island Visitors Bureau)

MEDIA RELEASE

Hawaii County celebrated the arrival of a JAL charter flight Thursday morning in appreciation for the business from Japan estimated to inject $1.02 million into the local economy.

Japanese arrivals had been a bright spot in Hawaii Island tourism until 2010 when Japan Airlines ceased its direct non-stop service to Kona.

County, state and tourism officials have since been working with airline carriers and wholesalers to restore service from Japan.

“We certainly welcome the obvious benefits that come with direct flights from Asia,” Mayor Billy Kenoi said. “Regular international flights are important for economic growth on Hawaii Island and will help us realize our goal of becoming a gateway to the Pacific.”

“Japan is an important market to Hawaii’s tourism economy and we look forward to welcoming more Japanese visitors. We also hope that the success of these charter flights will lead to a regularly scheduled flight from Japan to Kona,” said Mike McCartney, president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority in a March 13 news release.

The arrival was the second of three charters to the Big Island this month by Kintetsu Club Tourism, a division of Kintetsu Railway. The other two charters are from Nagoya.

Passengers disembark from the JAL flight that arrived Thursday morning in Kona. (Photo courtesy of Big Island Visitors Bureau)

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