A fond Aloha to Aloha Airlines

Squeezed April 2, 2008

I know I wasn’t the only one shocked to find out that Aloha Airlines abruptly stopped flying on Monday.   

At least for most of the 80s and 90s, Aloha was our family’s airline. We never considered flying interisland on anything other than one of Aloha’s 737s.

Things have changed, though. In recent years, Hawaiian has earned some loyalty from me, partly because it is one of only two airlines that fly nonstop to what has become my second spiritual home, Portland. And some of that transpacific loyalty has rubbed off on the interisland end. The last time I flew to Maui was on Hawaiian. I figured, may as well have all my HawaiianMiles in one place and one day take an Oregon vacation on Hawaiian’s dime. But then again, I can actually count, on one hand, the number of times I’ve flown interisland since 9-11, so we hadn’t given any interisland carrier too many of our dollars anyway.

I’ve never flown go!, and considering the measured opinions of one porn-loving ex-CFO of theirs, I don’t think I ever will.

I do remember the last time I flew Aloha. It was back in 2005, to and from Las Vegas (I booked via Hotwire so I didn’t know it was Aloha until after the fact). When Aloha first announced transpacific service, some people had doubts about a two-engine plane (like a long-range 737) making a transpacific flight in one piece. But make it in one piece it did…going and coming. And the narrow-body did give it a bit of a cozy feel. No charge to use the headset (in fact, you could take it with you). And warm chocolate chip cookies going and coming back.

I liked it. Unfortunately, I haven’t made a trip back to Las Vegas since. And Aloha stopped non-stops between Las Vegas and Honolulu.

There is some hope. Transportation carriers have shut down and been resurrected (if only partially) in recent memory. Howard Dicus of KGMB9 News opines:

Even now I wouldn’t rule out a relaunch of Aloha by a new owner using more fuel-efficient jets. I haven’t looked into their economic ability to manage such a deal this year but from an operational point of view it would be interesting to see such a deal with Southwest, Alaska or JetBlue. I would add JAL, ANA or even Qantas, KAL or PAL, but there is a U.S. law barring majority ownership of a U.S. airline by foreign interests.

He thinks that Aloha may have found a buyer with more time, given their on-time record, customer satisfaction, strong customer loyalty, and other intangibles.

Also, there is still a little matter of a lawsuit by Aloha against go!, and assuming that Aloha the company is still in existence, that lawsuit is probably Aloha’s to lose (given that Hawaiian has already done much of the heavy lifting for them). Should they prevail, the damages that would be awarded to Aloha should be enough to lease some fuel-efficient jets to get them back in business.

Bottom line, I agree with Howard. I really don’t think it’s adieu, but rather au revoir. Just like Superman doesn’t mean much without Lex Luthor, I can probably think of several pairs of corporate opposites here in Hawaii:

  • Advertiser vs. Star-Bulletin
  • HMSA vs. Kaiser
  • Bank of Hawaii vs. First Hawaiian

But of them, Hawaiian vs. Aloha is probably the most storied of them all. Competition between the two led both airlines to be consistently ranked #1 and #2 in the nation in on-time performance. “Hawaiian time” applied everyplace BUT the interisland planes. And both had fiercely loyal customer bases.

Mark my words. One day, when the economy is better and credit is easier to come by (and it looks like Mesa is having trouble too…can we say, what goes around, comes around?), we may see a rebirth of Aloha Airlines the brand.

For now, though, the state suddenly has 1,900 more unemployed people than it did last week. My heart goes out to all the Aloha workers.

Aloha, Aloha.  We’ll miss you.

UPDATE 4/2 11:09pm: And now I find out that ATA has gone under too. Yikes.

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One Response to “A fond Aloha to Aloha Airlines”

  1. Alice Says:

    go! is like the Wal-Mart of the airline industry. go! doesn’t pay its workers well or provide a lot of space on the planes.

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