BY DOUG CAMERON FOR WALL STREET JOURNAL - The head  of Hawaiian Airlines said a new Tokyo service is set to start on Oct. 31  despite the lack of formal U.S. government approval.

Hawaiian, a unit of Hawaiian Holdings Inc. (HA), was the surprise winner of one of four coveted slots to start services from the U.S. to Haneda. Tokyo’s downtown airport is a favorite with business travelers and will reopen to international flights when a new runway opens in October.

Japan is the largest overseas market for Hawaiian tourism, and the airline’s planned Honolulu-Haneda service is part of an international expansion by the airline with a new fleet of Airbus A330s.

“It’s a little curious,” Hawaiian President and Chief Executive Mark Dunkerley said of the limbo left by waiting for the Department of Transportation to formalize its tentative approval.

Dunkerley said final approval for the Haneda service had been expected before an annual industry meeting in June that allocates airport takeoff and landing slot times.

DOT said a decision is expected “shortly.” One wild card is whether United Airlines’ parent UAL Corp. (UAUA) and Continental Airlines Inc. (CAL) appeal after missing out on Haneda rights. Delta Air Lines. (DAL) and AMR Corp.’s (AMR) American Airlines picked up the other three slots.

Hawaiian Airlines has seen the number of inbound tourists rise for six straight months, and the airline suffered less during the recession than did U.S. peers hobbled by vanishing business traffic.

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