Hawaiian Airlines Woos New Yorkers

The smell of tuberose leis overwhelmed the JetBlue terminal at JFK last week as Hawaiian Airlines made the inaugural flight from its headquarters in Honolulu to New York City.

The lei -- given as a sign of affection when arriving in or leaving the islands -- embodies the aloha spirit for which Hawaii is so famous. Avi Mannis, VP-marketing at Hawaiian Airlines, brought boxes of the fragrant garlands on the flight to give out at the bevy of events the airline was hosting to promote the airline's new route. "One customer told me that it was the best that JFK had ever smelled," Mr. Mannis said.

The reduction of service to Hawaii by many U.S. carriers and the closure of Aloha Airlines has put Hawaiian Airlines in a good position to grow, said Mr. Mannis.

Still, New York presented a unique marketing problem. It is the 83-year-old airline's first East Coast route. And Mr. Mannis and his team need to find a way to make Hawaii, a 10-hour flight away, a more appealing vacation option than closer and less expensive locales like Mexico, Florida and the Caribbean.

Last year only 2.4% of the U.S. visitors flying to Hawaii were from New York; 44% were visiting from California, according to data published by the Hawaii Tourism Authority. "[People on the West Coast] love Hawaii. Many are returning for their sixth or seventh trips," says Mr. Mannis. "But for people in New York, there is a mystique about it."


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