A Bizarre Development in Hawaii’s Airline War

A strange story, which local folks have been buzzing about for a month, has just reached the national news networks. But first, some background:

We’ve had two local airlines here in Hawaii for a long time. Aloha Airlines has been flying inter-island since the late 40s and Hawaiian Airlines has been operating since way back in 1927. Over the last 10-15 years, Hawaiian has grown significantly and their impressive fleet now includes more than twenty wide-body 767s. Hawaiian now flies to six or seven west coast cities, plus Tahiti, Guam, Samoa, Sydney and soon to Manila. It is – take my word for it – an excellent airline.

But the local market is tough and about 18 months ago both Aloha and Hawaiian were in bankruptcy. Both have since come out of Chapter 11 and are back to normal. But before they did, Mesa Air, a regional airline in the southwest US, showed up posing as a potential buyer for either Aloha or Hawaiian and, in that capacity, were given access to confidential internal information from the two airlines. A few months later, Mesa suddenly announced they weren’t going to buy either of the local airlines, but were going to compete against them in the inter-island market. The new competition was called go! Airline.

Both Hawaiian and Aloha screamed bloody murder, of course, since by getting to look at their books, go! had gotten an unfair advantage in their new role of competitor. That’s not just my opinion: a judge recently agreed and whacked Mesa Air with an $88 million fine.

As we say in the ad business, But wait! There’s more!

About a month back, a go! jet en route from Honolulu to Hilo flew 80 or 90 miles past its destination before finally responding to radio calls, turning around and landing safely. The FAA is investigating, but the best guess so far is that — Are you ready for this? — both pilots had fallen asleep!!

Click here for video from CNN and a Honolulu TV station, KGMB.