HONOLULU, June 25, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Hawaiian Airlines today launched its inaugural flight from Honolulu to Sendai, its fifth gateway in Japan and 10th new international destination it has introduced or announced in less than three years. (Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20130625/AQ38586) Passengers of the inaugural flight enjoyed a festive island-style send-off at Honolulu International Airport before boarding, featuring Hawaiian music and hula, a traditional Hawaiian blessing, presentation of fresh flower lei, and a special performance honoring the Japanese culture. "Our new nonstop service provides travelers throughout the entire region of Sendai with convenient access to our home, the Hawaiian Islands," said Mark Dunkerley, Hawaiian's president and CEO. "Hawai'i has deep connections with Japan, and we are very delighted to launch our fifth destination there as we continue to grow our network in Asia." Sendai is the largest city in the Tohoku region of northern Honshu, which has a population of more than 9 million. Sendai is known in Japan as "Mori no Miyako," or Forest City, for its many green spaces in its city center. It is also known for its high quality rice and for its summer Tanabata Festival, which draws thousands of visitors from across Japan. Hawaiian's Honolulu-Sendai service is the first scheduled service between Sendai and Hawai'i since another carrier left the market in 2004, and among the first new services to be introduced at Sendai Airport since it was closed for more than a month in 2011 due to damage caused by the Tohoku earthquake and subsequent tsunami. "Congratulations and aloha to Hawaiian Airlines on the launch of their new Sendai flight," said Mike McCartney, president and CEO of the Hawai'i Tourism Authority. "This flight will provide visitors from Northern Japan with greater access to the Hawaiian Islands and will help us in our efforts to reach two million visitors by 2016, a goal we set with the Japan Association of Travel Agents (JATA). We look forward to sharing our islands' unique culture and aloha spirit with visitors from Sendai." Hawaiian's Flight HA 441 departs Honolulu International Airport on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays at 12:55 p.m., cross the international dateline, and arrive at Sendai International Airport at 4:30 p.m. the following day. The return Flight 442 will then continue to Sapporo's New Chitose Airport at 5:45 p.m. on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, arriving at New Chitose at 7:00 p.m. before departing to Honolulu at 9:10 p.m., crossing the international dateline and arriving in Honolulu at 9:50 a.m. the same day. Hawaiian operates the Honolulu-Sendai-Sapporo flights using its fleet of roomy wide-body, twin-aisle Boeing 767-300ER aircraft that seat up to 264 passengers.