Hawaiian Airlines is continuing its push into the South Pacific with a new route to Auckland, starting in March, which will open one-stop flights to New Zealand from multiple U.S. cities.

Hawaiian likely will be the only U.S. carrier serving New Zealand directly when it begins flying from Honolulu to Auckland with Boeing 767-300ERs. The service will connect to Hawaiian’s interisland and U.S. mainland networks.

The carrier is considering which of its 11 flights between Hawaii and the mainland U.S. will be offered as connecting service to Auckland, CEO Mark Dunkerley tells Aviation Week. He says the schedule will be revealed soon, but many of the mainland destinations will be included. Hawaiian’s New York flight is among those under consideration.

Although the Auckland flight initially will operate three times a week, the intention is to expand it, says Dunkerley. “We often start into new markets with less-than-daily, then build frequency until we get to daily,” he says. Hawaiian did this with its Honolulu-Sydney flights, which increased to daily frequency in December.

In addition to its Sydney route, Hawaiian last month announced plans to fly to Brisbane three times a week, beginning in November. Hawaiian has a partnership with Virgin Australia, enabling it to connect to the Australian carrier’s network in Sydney and Brisbane.

The Australia-Hawaii market has slightly different dynamics than the New Zealand–Hawaii market, Dunkerley says. There is much less emphasis on connecting Australian flights to the U.S. mainland, since there are many nonstop alternatives. In comparison, Air New Zealand is the only carrier to directly connect the U.S. West Coast and New Zealand.

Both New Zealand and Australia are good markets for inbound tourism to Hawaii, as they have healthy economies and relatively strong currencies versus the U.S. dollar, Dunkerley says. There is considerable capacity on the Sydney-Honolulu route, with Qantas and its Jetstar subsidiary both competing against Hawaiian.

Currently, Air New Zealand is the only airline with direct flights between Honolulu and Auckland. It operates three flights a week, using a mix of Boeing 777-200ERs and 767-300ERs. However, Hawaiian Airlines is already familiar with the Auckland route, since Air New Zealand Engineering Services is contracted to perform heavy maintenance on its 767s.

Auckland Airport has been working for a few years to gain Hawaiian Airlines service, says Glenn Wedlock, the airport’s general manager-aeronautical commercial. Airport officials previously have stated that the U.S.-New Zealand market needs additional capacity, particularly since United Airlines recently dropped its plans to launch Houston-Auckland fights. Wedlock says the airport still is in discussions with other carriers regarding direct flights between the mainland U.S. and Auckland.

Hawaii will be an attractive connecting point for flights to the U.S. mainland, since the total trip is shorter than existing one-stop routes that connect in Sydney, Wedlock says. An added benefit for passengers is the ability to clear U.S. customs and immigration in Hawaii, rather than at a more congested U.S. West Coast airport, and to connect directly to a wider range of U.S. destinations.

Dunkerley says the Hawaiian fleet is fully committed through the first quarter of 2013, but there will be scope to add new international destinations from the middle of next year. Five more Airbus A330-200s are due to be delivered in 2013.