Throwback Thursday: Aloha Airlines

Aloha Airlines Wall Map
Aloha Airlines Boeing 737-200 "Funbird"
Aloha Airlines Boeing 737-200 on approach to PHNL over Kaka’ako Waterfront Park, February 2008. Retro “Funbird” livery.

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’aina business 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Surely Aloha Airlines demise was attributed to several factors including a bad economy, high fuel prices, outdated equipment and predatory pricing by Mesa’s GO!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.

Former employees of Aloha Airlines marked the date by having a reunion at the Hyatt Regency in Waikiki this past week.

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.

I used to marvel at both Aloha AirlinesFairchild F27 aircraft as well as those from Hawaiian Airlines (Convairs, DC-6s). This was back in the day before jets happened.

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.

Aloha Airlines Boeing 737-200
Aloha Airlines at Lihue Airport, May 2005.

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.

Aloha Airlines 737 at Kona
Aloha Airlines Boeing 737-400 at Kona International Airport, 1989

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.

Aloha Airlines 737-200 in flight on landing
Aloha Airlines Boeing 737-200 on approach to PHNL. Feb. 2008.

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.

Aloha Airlines 737 jet freighter
Aloha Airlines Boeing 737 ETOPS jet freighter on display at John Rogers / Kalaeloa Airport, Sept. 2003. 100 Years of flight air show.
Aloha Air Cargo Boeing 737-300 jet freighter taxing to commuter terminal area, 2015.

Additional Links

cover photo: Aloha Airlines old route map used to be a mural that hung in the inter-island terminal at Honolulu International Airport.

#TBT

 

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Unpaid Lease Rents for
Q400 Kills Island Air

Flying Inter-island in Hawaii banner

I have never flown on Island Air and never will.

Island Air announced that they would cease operations at the end of today, November 10. 

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.

Island Air N943WP

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.

Aircraft that Island Air operated

Video Report – KHON TV

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Flying Inter-Island in Hawaii

Flying Inter-island in Hawaii banner

Southwest Airlines // Boeing 737-8 MAX // N8711Q (cn 36979, ln 6272) // KCMH 10/1/17
Southwest Boeing 737-MAX jets will be flying to Hawaii from the U.S. mainland sometime next year. Photo by Micheal Wass.

The anticipated arrival of Southwest Airlines to Hawaii’s skies has created a possible scenario that grows larger every day with the recent Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing by local carrier, Island Air.

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.

What is most interesting about Southwest’s entry into the Hawaii market is the possibility that the airline will start “limited” inter-island service. 

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.

Island Air N943WPOne 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.

COMMENTARY

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. There will definitely be room for Southwest should Island Air go out of business.

What do you think? Send us a comment.

 

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United Airlines to Increase Hawaii Service

United Airlines 777 by Mel
United Airlines 777 by Mel

It comes as no surprise to me that United Airlines is increasing its schedule with additional flights to Hawaii starting late this year. Airlines are in some sort of scramble to either increase their service to Hawaii or start new service, like it has been mentioned in recent months by Southwest Airlines.

I think the airlines are scrambling this year on the fact that island based Hawaiian Airlines will be expanding their fleet and reach into the U.S. mainland and beyond with an influx of new aircraft. Hawaiian have 18 new Airbus A321neo‘s and 6 new A330-800neo jets on order. The A321’s will start to arrive later this year. There will be more flights in an out of the major neighbor island airports with the inclusion of the newer, smaller planes replacing Hawaiian’s Boeing 767s.

Southwest Boeing 737-700
Southwest Boeing 737-700 by Aero Icarus

Southwest is on the way to acquiring more than 200 new Boeing 737 jets, many being the advanced Max 7 and 8 series which will more than likely be ETOPS certified to fly to and from Hawaii.

United is the largest airline flying to and from the islands. As part of their 70 years of offering service to Hawaii, the airline has issued a press release announcing increased flights from their major hubs to all of Hawaii’s large airports: Honolulu (HNL), Maui (OGG), Kauai (LIH), Kona (KOA) and Hilo (ITO).

More flights to Hawaii is good for tourism as more visitors bring increased spending, more tax revenue, business growth and jobs to the islands. Whether or not increased frequency of flights to and from Hawaii will have an impact on air fares remain to be seen.

Hawaiian_A330_by_Mel
Hawaiian Airlines A330 by Mel
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Short Takes on Hawaii News, Events and Announcements

Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa’s Town Meeting

Public Meeting with Congresswoman Hanabusa
U.S. Representative Colleen Hanabusa held a town meeting yesterday (May 9) at McKinley High School in Honolulu where she answered mostly partisan questions regarding issues effecting Hawaii and the nation. During the Q & A Rep. Hanabusa addressed a number of issues including federal budgeting items for the military, social services, rail and more. She also touched upon the Hawaii marine preserve, Hawaiian governance, sanctuary cities, education and the firing of FBI Director James Comey. Approximately 60 people attended the meeting.

Photo: Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa poses for pictures with two of her supporters.

More @ The Hawaii Political Platter Blog

Honolulu International Airport Renamed The Daniel K.  Inouye International Airport

Take Off The Honolulu International Airport has recently undergone a name change. The airport is now called the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport. The State of Hawaii airport website for the airport has changed to reflect the new name, as well as the signage on the premises. The airport will retain the PHNL and HNL airline codes.

Daniel K. Inouye was Hawaii’s longtime Senator serving in Washington DC from 1963 to 2012. While naming the airport is an honor for the Senator, it certainly does not say “Hawaii” as the old name, Honolulu International Airport.

Photo: Airliner taking off from airport’s reef runway.

Additional News Links

The Hawaii Republican Party will be holding its annual convention this weekend, May 12 and 13 on the island of Kauai at the Aqua Kauai Beach Resort. New state officers are to be elected and party rules updated.

Actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson may run for President of the United States. At this early stage nothing can be discounted, though it would seem that Hollywood Celebrities such as Donald Trump, Ronald Reagan, Clint Eastwood, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sonny Bono turned their celebrity status and name recognition into political success. It certainly takes a lot of money and name recognition to be elected. Hawaii connection for Mr. Johnson? He lived in Hawaii when he was a teenager.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) in Hawaii is having two “resource day” events on May 11 and 17. The May 11 event will be at the Ewa Beach Location of American Savings Bank. The one on May 17 will be at the Kaimuki Branch of The Bank of Hawaii. More details and registration at this link: SBA – Hawaii.

Hawaiian Airlines is having another one of their monthly ticket sales for inter-island flights for as low as $68 each way (depending on distance to destination). The deadline for reservations is tomorrow, May 11. The price for inter-island tickets have certainly rose in recent years when most flights sell for nearly $100 each way.

Mother’s Day is this coming Sunday, May 14. Don’t forget to honor your Mom with gifts and love. For unique gift suggestions visit this link: A Greener Daily Life. While it may be too late for some gifts, just remember that it is for “Mom” and that every day is “Mother’s Day”.

 

 

 

 

 

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