HONOLULU -- Amid the flurry of bad news from the airlines, travel
agents in Hawaii had something to cheer about -- the call-off of
the merger of Hawaiian and Aloha airlines.
It was something they had been hoping for since the proposed
deal was announced early this year.
"We're quite happy," said Danny Casey, ASTA chapter president
for Hawaii and an agent with Quality Travel, Honolulu. "In the long
run, consumers in Hawaii are better off in a competitive
The Hawaii ASTA chapter, with 110 agents representing 60
agencies, had asked its members to contact city, state and federal
officials to oppose the merger, calling it "anticompetitive and
harmful to consumers."
The chapter met with Hawaii Gov. Ben Cayetano "to shed light on
the real issues," Casey said, namely concerns that the merger would
lead to higher prices and poor service.
In addition, a group calling itself Citizens for Competitive Air
Travel presented a petition to Cayetano with 20,000 signatures
opposing the merger.
The deal also attracted opposition from employees of both
airlines and several shareholders who had filed suit to block
Nonetheless, the end of the deal came as a surprise to everyone
in Hawaii, said Casey. And coming as it did two days after Delta's
zero commission announcement, it was a welcome bit of good
"Having just one carrier in Hawaii would not be a good situation
for consumers and for agents," he said.
The merger would have hurt the neighbor island agencies the most
because Hawaiians who live outside of Oahu depend on the two
carriers to travel to Oahu for flights that connect to the
Casey said agents were concerned that with one carrier offering
interisland travel, there would have been less of a need for the
airline to work with travel agents. The airline would have gone
direct to clients, he said. Also, there was a fear that discounts
on the interisland flights would disappear.
Hawaii residents depend on discounted flights, sold through
books of coupons to agents and consumers, he said. Agents buy the
coupons in bulk and mark them up for sale to clients.
The two carriers had said they sought the merger because they
could not survive without it. But agents said they could see no
reason that Hawaiian and Aloha would need to offer flights at the
same time to the same places.
The result, agents said, would have been half-full planes and
loss of revenue for both airlines.
Asked if he feared for the survival of the two carriers in the
intensely competitive interisland environment, Casey said, "This
marketplace can handle two carriers."
Bonnie Gutner, of Travel Inc., Kailua, Oahu, said the main
beneficiaries of the call-off of the merger will be the "people of
Hawaii, particularly Hawaiians who travel regularly to other
islands to visit family."
She also said she believes both carriers can survive with
healthy interisland sales if they manage their businesses
The merger collapsed March 16 when the companies could not reach
a deal to extend their merger agreement beyond the April 18