A little more than ten years ago, the Cunard Liner Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2) made her final stop in Honolulu on March 25, 2008 on her last around the world voyage before being decommissioned later that year.
The arrival and docking of the QE2 at Honolulu Harbor was always a sight to behold. The ship attracted a good collection of fans and photographers who came out to snap pictures of her. Over the years I’ve shot several photos of QE2 at her familiar moorings at Piers 2 or 11.
In late 2008 she was sold and set sail for her new home in the far away Arab city of Dubai. There she sat for many years, her fate usually unknown until it was announced that she will opened as a floating hotel this year. In an email that I got from the QE2 Story website and message board:
QE2 Dubai Hotel Opens
Hello global QE2 fans! We don’t often send special emails during the month, but we felt this was too important to miss.
QE2 Dubai is now available to book to stay on, and the “soft opening” date is the 18th of April (the same day that Queen Mary 2 is in port), followed by the full “grand opening” in October, when all areas of the ship will be brought back into use.
While I never stepped on board the famed ocean liner, she will forever be a treasured memory for all those who traveled on her as well as those who saw her in port and other places while in active service.
March 31 of this year marked the tenth year since the closure of Aloha Airlines after more than 60 years of business in Hawaii. It was a sad and painful time for its owners and employees, and a blow to Hawaii’s traveling public to see a long time kama’ainabusiness go belly-up.
Surely Aloha Airlines demise was attributed to several factors including a bad economy, high fuel prices, outdated equipment and predatory pricing by Mesa’s GO! Airlines subsidiary which itself also closed down some years later.
My memories of Aloha Airlines go back to my youth when my parents used to take my sister and I to Hilo Airport just to see the airplanes come and go at the terminal. This was in the old days, long before security became a major issue and obstacle to access by non-passengers.
In the old days Aloha Airlines flew a variety of aircraft including the DC-3‘s that they started up with (long before I was born), the Fairchild / Fokker F27, Vickers Viscount and BAC-111 jet. In time they would standardize on the Boeing 737.
As a boy growing up on the Big Island, I rarely got a chance to fly. When we did, my parents always flew us on Hawaiian Airlines.
It was not until my college years that I finally got around to flying on Aloha. I usually flew to the Big Island of Hawaii’s airports in Kona and Hilo, as well as to Honolulu and once to Lihue, Kauai. Aloha Airlines also flew to Waimea-Kohala. I flew on Aloha’s Boeing 737-200 aircraft except maybe for one or two times on the newer 737-400 that Aloha had in passenger service for a short time.
One of my most memorable Aloha Airlines flight was one coming into Honolulu from the Big Island. While coming into Honolulu our flight had to abort its first landing attempt after another plane was spotted on the runway.
Flights on Aloha were pleasant experiences. They were on time, the personnel were courteous and helpful and the Boeing 737-200 aircraft were clean, even though by the start of the new century, they were considered “aging” and nearly obsolete.
Aloha was one of the last airlines in the Hawaii market that offered paper flight coupon packs (around 2004) in packets of six. These were very popular in the 1980s after being initially offered by upstart (and long gone) Mid-Pacific Airlines, a discount carrier. Soon after both Aloha and Hawaiian were forced to offer them. Flight certificate booklets were very popular with the public as they allowed people to take an inter-island flight on almost any day and time. They were convenient.
In the long run, the airlines hated the coupons since people stocked up on them and rarely ever flew at the published and more expensive per trip flights. The advent of online booking changed everything in favor of the airlines. Coupons were quickly discontinued.
The last time I flew on Aloha Airlines was back in November of 2006 during the height of the fare war instigated by Mesa/GO! Flights were being sold for as little as $2 each way. It was a definite money loser for the local airlines. The public loved them. I remember buying 4 different flights for a week of travel on three different airlines, flying at about $9 per trip. Once on GO!, once on Hawaiian and I think twice on Aloha.
That was the last time. A trip to Hilo and back.
Less than two years later, Aloha declared bankruptcy after GO!’s predatory pricing, high fuel costs, aging aircraft and a downturn in the economy forced the airline to go out of business.
Today the carcass of Aloha Airlines lives on in Aloha Air Cargo, which was the firm’s cargo business that was bought out by another company after Aloha Airlines closed in 2008.
Aloha Airlines is now a memory that many people hold with fondness.
The shutdown comes nearly a month after the airline filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. It tried to find major investors to prop themselves up. In the end that did not happen. The company that they leased their recently acquired 78-passenger Q400 turboprop planes forced Island Air to close after the airline did not meet lease rent payments for the aircraft.
As a result, more than 400 people will be out of work and passengers will be stuck with worthless tickets that they may be able to get refunds from through their credit card companies.
Island Air was in business for 37 years, starting in 1980 as Princeville Airlines. Back then the airline flew deHavilland Twin Otter prop planes between Honolulu and the privately owned Princeville Airport on Kauai.
In the 1980s Princeville Airlines was acquired by Aloha Airlines which renamed the commuter carrier Aloha Island Air. They continued to operate the small, 18 passenger Twin Otter planes. In time the fleet was upgraded to the deHavilland Dash 8 turbo-prop that carried a little more than 30 passengers.
The airline was successful with the Dash 8’s and continued for many years under a few ownership changes through the 21st century. In the 2000s, Island Air started flying the ATR 72 (photo above) turboprop which carried about 68 passengers. They briefly had a Q400 in their fleet for a short time in 2006.
This year, with some fanfare, Island Air decided to retire their ATR 72’s and acquired 5 78-passenger Bombardier Q400 turboprops which are based on the earlier versions of the Dash 8. The new planes were supposed to offer better passenger comfort and cost savings.
Never happened. Unpaid lease rents for the new aircraft, no profitability in the past 4.5 years, and the bankruptcy filing all caught up with Island Air as it died from a lack of cash.
Sad story for the local airline.
The inter-island market is now stuck with Hawaiian Airlines (and its subsidiary Ohana by Hawaiian) as the only major player in the market. Expect ticket prices to hike again.
The demise of Island Air opens the door wider for the possible entry of Southwest Airlines into the inter-island market since their service announcement was made in early October.
Inter-island air travel will be an interesting topic to continually watch.
First off, Southwest announced earlier this month that they will be starting up West Coast USA to Hawaii service using their new Boeing 737 MAX jets. The airline is in the process of getting ETOPS certification and securing gate space at Hawaii airports. The airline has not announced their Hawaii – U.S. mainland destinations, but it can be assumed that the airline will at least be flying to Honolulu and Kahului, Maui with Lihue and Kona being fairly good bets too.
Southwest Airlines is popular with many mainland flyers as they are known for being a low-cost carrier and do not charge fees for checked baggage or flight changes.
The announcement comes at a precarious time for Island Air, the state’s second largest inter-island carrier. They filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy a week ago after a dispute concerning lease rents for three of their Q400 aircraft surfaced. The lessor wants to repossess the aircraft. They filed a lawsuit in bankruptcy court to force the airline to give up the planes. Should the lessor prevail in the lawsuit, Island Air which is down to those three planes after two other Q400s were taken away will be forced to go out of business leaving 400 people unemployed.
One of Island Air’s ATR 72s, which were just retired, passes by the Hawaiian Airlines maintenance hanger in this photo shot in 2015.
Island Air recently retired their fleet of ATR 72s hoping that the Q400s would help bring costs down.
Should Island Air close, longtime incumbent, Hawaiian Airlines will more than likely increase their inter-island ticket prices (which are high already) as they reign in their near-monopoly position in the inter-island market.
It will be a sad day in the local airline industry if Island Air goes out of business. In 2008 Aloha Airlines went out of business after being in the market for more than 60 years. Mesa’s Go!airlines which disrupted the inter-island market in 2006 contributing to Aloha’s demise, went out of business in 2014.
The possible entry of Southwest into the inter-island market will be a great option for local residents who have been negatively impacted by Hawaiian Airlines’ high ticket prices and baggage/change fees.
There will definitely be room for Southwest should Island Air go out of business.
The Diamond Head entrance of the Ala Moana Beach Park access road remains closed nearly three weeks after a sinkhole was discovered on September 13. The entry way near the Waikiki Yacht Club up to the turn-in to the Magic Island parking lot remains closed off to vehicular traffic while workers continue to fix the hole. The sinkhole is mostly covered with a new layer of gravel. Work continues on the adjacent sidewalk and new pavement have yet to be applied. The road repair should be done by the middle of this month.
Workers continue to repair the segment of roadway that was impacted by a sinkhole (above and below).
Walkers, joggers and bicyclists still have access to and from the park through the construction area on the Diamond Head end of the Ala Moana Park access road. Photos by Mel.