updated 8/28/2007 1:55:38 PM ET 2007-08-28T17:55:38

Hawaiian Airlines is awaiting U.S. Department of Transportation approval before expanding its operations to Asia.

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The airline announced Monday that it expects to begin service between Honolulu and Manila, in the Philippines, in March.

"This is exciting news for travelers, our community and our company," Hawaiian Holdings Inc. President and CEO Mark Dunkerley said in a news release.

"We see tremendous opportunity to increase travel on this route in light of the deep historical and cultural ties Hawaii has to the Philippines, Manila's large population of over 10 million people, its growing international business sector and substantial middle class with the inclination and means to travel," he said.

Gov. Linda Lingle praised the airline's expansion move.

"Hawaiian's flights will increase business, cultural and educational opportunities for Hawaii, provide additional international travel options and help bring our communities even closer together," said Gov. Linda Lingle said in the news release issued by Hawaiian.

The airline plans to start service with four or more flights per week, which it said will more than double current capacity on the nonstop route.

Hawaiian said its research found about 170,000 people traveled between Manila and Hawaii during the past year.

The airline said it will operate the new route using its wide-body Boeing 767-300ER aircraft that seat up to 264 passengers.

"Hawaiian has grown in 2007 faster than any other airline in the U.S.," Dunkerley said. "We serve more mainland destinations on a nonstop basis than any other airline, and we're thrilled to be expanding our international operations into Asia with new nonstop service to Manila."

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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