Aloha Means Hello . . . and Goodbye?

It looks like high oil prices may have claimed their first airline victim. Aloha Airlines filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last week, and unlike their last stint, I’m not so sure they’re going to come out of this one.

What does that mean if you have a ticket on Aloha? Nothing right now. Everything is operating as scheduled, thanks to bankruptcy court approval but I wouldn’t expect it to stay that way for long.

It’s long been said that there isn’t room for three airlines in Hawai’i, and many accusations have been made that go! came in with the expectation that they could run Aloha out of the market. They may have succeeded, at least, that’s whom Aloha is blaming. It’s going to be awfully hard to come up with a business plan for Aloha in which someone will be willing to invest. I mean, that’s why the current owner decided to cut off funding now. With oil prices where they are and fares as low as they are within Hawai’i, it’s not looking good for the airline.

I hate to say it, but I personally would be hesitant to book a flight on Aloha for an interisland flight more than a couple weeks out right now. You’re probably better off sticking with Hawaiian. The question now is whether or not any part of the airline will survive in one form or another. Seems to me that breaking the airline up might be the best option available right now.

08_03_24 alohabreakupThe long haul flying could be attractive to someone. Might Southwest decide to pick up Aloha’s 737-700s with ETOPS certification? Could be an interesting little operation for them, especially since there’s no way to count on ATA staying in the Hawaiian market right now.

Something tells me this is going to be the first of many bankruptcies this year. If you’re booked on Aloha, you should be fine for now, but you’ll want to keep any eye on any developments that may change that. Probably saddest of all here is that if Aloha does go out of business, it will mark the end of scheduled 737-200 operations in the US. It wasn’t that long ago that America West, Southwest, US Airways, United, Alaska, and Delta were all operating the type.

22 Responses to Aloha Means Hello . . . and Goodbye?

  1. Jeff K says:

    Very sad about the potential that the 722s won’t be in service if Aloha totally folds (which I also think will be the case). I did have a chance to fly one from OGG to HNL a few years back. The older type thrust reverser is always picture worthy. And flying on a plane that is almost older then I am (38) just makes you feel younger, at least for the 20 minute flight.

  2. Court says:

    It’ll be very interesting to see what happens to that $80 million owed by Mesa. Would that be divied out among the creditors? Did Ornstein sneak out a victory here?

  3. David M says:

    The $80M owed by Mesa is to Hawaiian; Aloha’s case against them hasn’t gone to trial yet.

  4. CF says:

    Mesa owes their money to Hawaiian right now. I believe Aloha suits are still in the courts.

  5. I’m really curious who would pick up the ground handling business… Since it falls into that moderately profitable service to airlines bucket that seems to be the more interesting part.

  6. CF says:

    Oops, David M beat me to it. . .

  7. BRog says:

    Hey Cranky,

    What is ETOPS?

  8. CF says:

    Sorry, BRog – It stands for “Engines Turn Or Passengers Swim.”

    Ok, not really. I’ve actually heard a couple explanations of what it stands for, but I think it’s “Extended-Range Twin-Engine Operational Performance Standards.”

    I guess none of that matters. What matters is what it does. See, airplanes with 2 engines are not permitted to go very far from the nearest airport unless they have ETOPS certification. So, Southwest can’t fly to Hawai’i right now because neither the airline nor their specific aircraft are allowed to go that far from the nearest airport. (Being in the middle of the Pacific, you can be pretty far from land.)

    If they had Aloha’s certificate along with those airplanes, they would be able to fly to Hawai’i without the costs of getting certified.

  9. BRog says:

    Thanks Cranky. I guess these certifications are the reason my winter flight path from Newark to Glasgow always kept the smaller planes within coasting distance to Greenland or Iceland vs. the summer equiptment which was much bigger and could take a more direct line…

    Engines Turn or Passengers Swim…that was a good one :)

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  11. CF says:

    Actually, BRog, that isn’t it. The planes take that route because they’re flying on set tracks over the North Atlantic that change daily based on wind speed and other factors. The great circle route will often take you that far north. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say on the subject.

    If you’re flying Newark to Glasgow, you’re flying Continental on a 757, I’d guess. They have ETOPS, so they can fly further from alternate airports.

  12. Loomis says:

    Aloha used to be certified for ETOPS with the -200s, too. They couldn’t make the US mainland, but they went to places like Christmas Island and Midway. Unique in the US, I believe.

  13. Wonko Beeblebrox says:

    ETOPS also means enhanced/more stringent mechanical requirements on that plane, I think. IE: if you normally have one system and a backup, you might need yet another backup for an ETOPS plane; since you would not be able to run just on the backup — ie: with the primary down. I think.

    I believe ETOPS also requires full up life jackets (not “use your seat cushion bottom for flotation”) at every seat and those deployable ceiling mounted life rafts installed on board. That might be EOW (Extended OverWater) ops, though. Cranky, do you know?

  14. CF says:

    Wonko – I do believe that the life jackets and ceiling mounted rafts are just for any extended overwater flying. IIRC, JetBlue has equipped their fleet with them so they can fly out over the water from the Northeast down to Florida. Other airline use it to cut across the Gulf of Mexico. Of course, ETOPS operations would require that as well!

  15. Alex C says:

    Cranky, I wonder if you have any thoughts on the breakdown of profitability between the inter-island vs. continental US operations? Operating 732s on short hops with low yields does seem like a sure-fire way to lose one’s shirt, but are the routes to California very profitable against all the competition?

    I guess the reason AQ survived up to this point was that the 732s were cheaper to keep in operation than to replace, but as you say with fuel costing what it does, that dynamic clearly changed.

  16. CF says:

    Alex C – Not sure about the breakdown, but if I have more time I can try to sift through government data. (You can do it too at bts.gov.) My guess is that the mainland flying is more profitable. Whether that means it’s actually profitable or not, I’m not sure. They do have a little fare protection since they fly to airports that aren’t popular Hawai’i departure points – like Orange County.

    I don’t think the 732 is the real cause of their demise. The planes work well for their mission, and they’re cheap to own. The biggest problem is on the revenue side. When go! entered, the fares just tanked and that’s when it got to the point where any aircraft would lose money.

  17. Yo says:

    Remember America West’s 737-100?

    Old 708, always an adventure to fly on, when it actually flew.

    Beer cans now though.

  18. CF says:

    Yo – Oh yes, of course I remember 708. I used to love that plane. In fact, I did a roundtrip from PHX to TUS one day just to get on her before she went away. I remember that toward the end, 708 was primarily going back and forth between PHX and LAX on the out-of-bank flights, including the old late night post-11p departure from PHX.

    Here she is just before the end, and here’s a picture of her in better days.

    Getting on a 737-100 wasn’t an easy task, but I managed to get on a couple of CO birds as well. One I flew from DCA to EWR, and another was on CALite from BWI-GSO-ATL. Yikes, what a horrible route.

  19. Yo says:

    Yeah, 708 left me stranded in OAK many times due to MX. The plane always kicked out a few extra noises that would raise a scare or two.

    As for Aloha’s -200 ETOPS, they flew it to Majuro, Kwajelein, Midway, and I believe they did some trips to Johnston Atoll (which is now closed and bulldozed and is an off limits nature preserve). I think they did a few Christmas Island (Kiribati) trips with it as well.

  20. Sheila says:

    FYI – Aloha’s shutting down all operations in 2 days. Mainland flights end tonight. I didn’t think operations would cease so quickly. The Star Bulletin has an article on the shut down.

  21. travel hag says:

    No disruption expected to US flights, which were handled above and below wing by Aloha. Since this was in the air, temporary senior employees dispatched over the weekend to all 4 US destination cities in the islands. Great planning, I must say!

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