Hawaiian Airlines and Japan Airlines have filed for anti-trust protection to form the first airline joint venture in the US not involving one of the big three carriers.
The alliance will be Hawaiian’s first joint venture and aims to build on a codeshare partnership with JAL launched in March.
It comes as Hawaii has attracted interest from Asian low-cost carriers, with Kuala Lumpur-based AirAsia X and Singapore’s Scoot both launching services in 2017 via Japan.
The alliance will allow the JAL and Hawaiian to coordinate marketing and sales efforts as well as share costs and revenue on their joint-venture routes.
It will also, they argue, result in significant advantages for consumers and generate additional jobs in the US.
The application has been filed with Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) and the US Department of Transportation (DoT) and will require the approval of both to proceed.
The prospective partners hope to get that later this year and to be able to launch the joint venture in the second quarter of 2019.
The existing partnership already provides for extensive code sharing and gives passengers lounge access and frequent flyer reciprocity.
The airlines say the deeper alliance will create “a cascade of consumer benefits including lower fares, increased capacity and enhanced consumer choice”.
They estimate it will bring an additional 162,000 to 350,000 passengers to Hawaii, contribute between $U184.5 million and $U402.3 million to the US economy annually and generate between 1,855 to 4,049 US jobs.
They also argue it will also offer the DoT the opportunity to improve the competitiveness of a smaller US carrier in the face of consolidation among country’s big network carriers.
Hawaiian operates a domestic long-haul network that includes 12 routes between the islands and the US mainland as well as America Samoa.
It has invested heavily in expanding its international reach and now flies to Japan, South Korea, China, Australia, New Zealand, and Tahiti.
It entered the Japanese market in 2010 and now counts it as its most important international market with flights from Honolulu to Tokyo’s Haneda and Narita airports as well as to Sapporo and Osaka. It also flies between Kona and Tokyo.
Under the joint venture, Hawaiian would get “enhanced access” to 34 Japanese destinations, including Nagoya and Okinawa, as well 11 points in Asia beyond Japan.
JAL would get improved access to Hawaiian’s neighbor island network as well as its Haneda-Sapporo service.
“We have long admired JAL’s excellent service, which corresponds well with the authentic Hawaiian hospitality we offer,” Hawaiian chief executive Peter Ingram said in announcing the application.
“This joint venture will combine two premier brands in the highly competitive Japan-Hawaii market, and travelers from both of our countries will benefit.”
JAL president Yuji Akasaka said the airline hoped to boost the number of Hawaiian residents seeking to travel to and beyond Japan as well as the number of Japanese visiting Hawaii.