Aloha ‘Oe, Aloha Airlines

Aloha, Go!, Hawaiian

You may remember that I said last week that I probably wouldn’t book a flight on Aloha for travel more than a couple weeks out. It looks like the airline won’t even make it that long.

Aloha has announced that, not surprisingly, there just aren’t any investors to help keep the passenger business afloat. Today, March 31, will be the last day of operation for all passenger flights. The interisland schedule will operate as normal today, and flights FROM the mainland will go as planned as well. Flights TO the mainland won’t operate, and neither will flights within the mainland. The cargo and airport services divisions will continue to operate since there has been interest from outside parties in acquiring those.

It doesn’t matter if you think we have too much capacity in this country or not. When an airline with such a long and storied history as Aloha goes out of business, it’s just a sad day.

I will always remember Aloha under better circumstances. This photo, though of a more recent “retrojet” scheme, reminds me of how the planes looked during my very early childhood visits to Hawai’i. (Much of my childhood saw this, less fun design.)
08_03_31 alohafunbird
Aloha (then called TPA – Trans-Pacific Airlines) started flying on July 26, 1946 with a war surplus C-47 (DC-3). At that time, it was hard for locals of Asian descent to succeed due to discrimination. Despite the odds being stacked against him, founder Ruddy Tongg was able to create a successful business that earned the nickname, The People’s Airline. Today will mark the end of nearly 62 years of passenger operation.

In a 1949 Time Magazine article, Mr Tongg was said to be “convinced there is room for two airlines in the air-minded Territory.” He was clearly correct. Sadly, there just wasn’t room for three.

When Mesa Airlines brought go! to the market, not many people I knew thought that three airlines could survive. Since go!’s inception, Mesa has lost a great deal of money with low load factors and even lower fares. Of course, since Mesa had deeper pockets than either Hawaiian or Aloha at the time, it could put its planes in there for the long haul and just wait for one of the local carriers to disappear. Since that time, Mesa’s financial strength has been eroded tremendously, but the airline was still able to outlast Aloha.

So, now one of Hawaii’s great airlines is gone, and so are scheduled passenger operations on the 737-200 aircraft in the US. If you had a ticket on Aloha, you’re out of luck. Contact your credit card company for a refund or you’ll have to file a claim with the bankruptcy court and hope you get anything back. (Don’t count on it.) If you need to travel between the islands, let me recommend a few airlines that can help.

Hawaiian – Flying between all the major airports in Hawai’i
Island Air – Flying primarily to smaller airports in Hawai’i
Pacific Wings – Also flying to smaller airports in Hawai’i on a less frequent basis

And yes, there’s go! as well, I suppose. No matter who you fly, the fares are likely to go up soon. Those ridiculously low fares that go! put in the market aren’t sustainable and never were. In fact, I’d be surprised if the airline can even make money at previous market fare levels with the CRJ. So, you may see fares go to levels even higher than before, assuming Hawaiian is willing.

As I mentioned above, Aloha will actually live on in a couple ways. The cargo business is still going to keep running as there have been interested parties in buying it. Also, the airport services operation will continue as well. That’s music to the ears of all major US airlines that contract with them to keep their planes running right now.

But, but most people know the airline for its passenger business, and that will end today after nearly 62 years of flying. Aloha ‘Oe, Aloha Airlines.

Edited 3/31 @ 9a to make it clear that the schedule will only operate today. After today, no passenger flights will operate.

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16 comments on “Aloha ‘Oe, Aloha Airlines

  1. The interisland schedule will operate as normal? Is it or is it not shutting down passenger service?

  2. According to the press release, they’re working with United to accommodate ticket holders left high and dry by the shutdown.

  3. Bummer… I enjoyed the SNA-RNO nonstop flight that Aloha offered, CF could you forsee another carrier adding that route (can’t think of anyone but Southwest that would even make sense)?

  4. Good question, Wes. Southwest could be an option as could a Horizon (Alaska) Q400, but I wouldn’t expect either of those. Space is at a premium at SNA, so I’d guess that someone could find a better use for that slot.

  5. Thanks CF, forgot about Horizon. Also, I am glad I read your blog and appreciate the heads-up you had given on Aloha, last week I held off purchasing tickets a few weeks out, and am glad I did so now.

    For now X Jet out of LGB or ONT looks to be my best bet to get to RNO (although a Southwest stop in OAK or SJC isn’t the end of the world).

  6. My previous comment brings to mind another question you likely have some insight on. What is the outlook on Express Jet’s branded flying for the near future? Is there any info available regarding load factors since they added RNO?

  7. Wes – the latest month we have so far is December. During that month from RNO, Spokane had 58.1%, Long Beach had 54.1%, Ontario had 47.9%, and Tucson brought up the rear with 37.8%.

    As for their branded flying in general, I’m not too bullish on it. I still love the idea, but not with 50 seat jets and $100+ fuel. The math just doesn’t work. ExpressJet shareholders are getting restless, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see this be one of the next casualties we see.

  8. My friend’s brother is a pilot for Aloha. This is awful for them. Sure it’s tough on the passengers and a sad day for aviation enthusiasts, but the employees are the ones who truly lose. Almost 4,000 people work for the airline, mostly on the passenger side.

    The pilots are scrambling to work for Hawaiian and the other legacy carriers but it looks grim. And HI isn’t exactly an employment mecca. A sad day for aviation, but a tragic day for the State of Hawaii.

  9. Actually, it’s expected that 1,900 people will lose their jobs since the rest work for the cargo or airport services businesses. Hawaiian and go! are adding about 2/3 the amount of seats that Aloha is losing, so there will be some demand for more crews. Hopefully some Aloha employees will get hired on at these airlines, although it will inevitably be for a lower wage.

  10. For your readers’ reference…

    The Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau is working closely with the Governor’s office, Hawaii Tourism Authority, local and national airlines, hotels, and the tourism industry at large to provide consumers a central web resource for visitor/travel information related to the Aloha Airlines shut down at:

    Affected travelers are encouraged to visit the website, which will be updated continuously as new information becomes available.

  11. The bad thing about Aloha shutting down at this time is that the mainland Chinese Americans who have relatives that are buried in Hawaii need to fly to Hawaii during the month of April. Known as “Ching Ming” it’s a yearly tradition in April where relatives clean the burial site and bring food to honor them.

  12. I was in shock when I read the breaking news article in the Honolulu Advertiser. It is a sad day indeed for the state of Hawaii and for all the people working for Aloha. It is always sad to see a business go under but this airline has been around for so long and in my opinion is much safer than go.

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