HONOLULU, July 15, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Taking the next step in its strategic growth plan, Hawaiian Airlines today announced it will open a new international gateway to New Zealand with new nonstop service between Honolulu and Auckland three days weekly beginning March 13, 2013. (Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20040827/LAF044LOGO) "New Zealanders are avid travelers and we believe the introduction of new nonstop flights with our winning brand of service will be welcomed in meeting pent-up demand for a Hawaii vacation," said Mark Dunkerley, Hawaiian's president and CEO. "At the same time, our new service will offer Hawaii residents easy access to the natural wonders and Maori culture of New Zealand." Hawaiian will be the only U.S. carrier flying into Auckland. The company's market research indicates that Hawaii is an underserved market for New Zealand, as tourism figures show there are currently 30% fewer visitor arrivals coming from New Zealand than in 1999 when more nonstop flights were offered between the two destinations. In addition, New Zealand residents made more than one million trips to the South Pacific and Asia in 2011. Hawaiian's new service will add more than 40,000 seats annually between Auckland and Hawaii. "Hawaiian Airlines' entry into the New Zealand market is more positive news for Hawaii's tourism economy, with the potential to bring in up to an estimated $50 million in annual visitor expenditures and $5.4 million in tax revenue," said Mike McCartney, president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA). According to HTA, the New Zealand market is a strong source of visitors for Hawaii. In 2011, Hawaii received 20,730 arrivals from New Zealand – an increase of 15.4% compared to 2010 – which were responsible for generating $38 million in visitor expenditures. Year-to-date through May 2012, arrivals from New Zealand have increased by 5.1% year-over-year. Travel officials in New Zealand hailed the new service announcement from Hawaiian. "This new service will help not only to grow the attractive Hawaiian market across a number of islands, but also will offer fantastic and conveniently-timed connections to a wide range of great city destinations in the mainland United States and New Zealand," said Glenn Wedlock, Auckland Airport's general manager aeronautical commercial. "The New Zealand travel industry has been calling for more capacity and better connections on this route for some time, so this announcement will be welcomed with open arms." Kevin Bowler, chief executive of Tourism New Zealand, greeted the announcement as a significant step in improving visitor arrivals from the United States and strengthening relations between the two countries. " The United States is a vital market for New Zealand leisure and business travel, and is a key focus for our marketing efforts given the significant potential for growth that exists," Bowler said. "The timing of this new service is ideal as the release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will heighten interest in New Zealand and no doubt whet Americans' appetite for travel here." Hawaiian will operate the Auckland- Honolulu flights using its fleet of wide-body, twin-aisle Boeing 767-300ER aircraft, seating 264 passengers – 18 in Business Class and 246 in the Main Cabin. Flight schedules and the start of ticket sales for the new Auckland service will be announced at a later date. New Zealand is similar in size to Japan and comprised of two main islands, the North Island, where Auckland is located and most of the country's four million residents live, and the South Island. The country is known for its beautiful and diverse landscapes, including golden-sand beaches, lush rainforests, fjords, and glaciers. Auckland will be the eighth new destination that Hawaiian has introduced or announced new service to since November 2010, following Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka, and Sapporo ( October 30, 2012), Japan; Seoul, South Korea; New York City, and Brisbane, Australia ( November 27, 2012). Hawaiian's growth into new markets and expansion of existing operations in North America has been fueled by its long-haul fleet renewal and expansion program that began in June 2010. Since then, the company has welcomed nine new Airbus A330-200 aircraft to its fleet, and is scheduled to introduce five more A330s into service in 2013. About Hawaiian AirlinesHawaiian has led all U.S. carriers in on-time performance for each of the past eight years (2004-2011) as reported by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Consumer surveys by Conde Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure and Zagat have all ranked Hawaiian the highest of all domestic airlines serving Hawaii. Now in its 83rd year of continuous service, Hawaiian is Hawaii's biggest and longest-serving airline, as well as the largest provider of passenger air service from its primary visitor markets on the U.S. mainland. Hawaiian offers nonstop service to Hawaii from more U.S. gateway cities (11) than any other airline, along with service from Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia, American Samoa, and Tahiti. New nonstop service between Honolulu and Sapporo, Japan and Brisbane, Australia will begin in October and November 2012, respectively. Hawaiian also provides approximately 170 daily jet flights between the Hawaiian Islands. Hawaiian Airlines, Inc. is a subsidiary of Hawaiian Holdings, Inc. (NASDAQ: HA). Additional information is available at HawaiianAirlines.com. Follow updates on Twitter about Hawaiian (@HawaiianAir) and its special fare offers (@HawaiianFares), and become a fan on its Facebook page (Hawaiian Airlines).