Travel Weekly's Hawaii E-Letter: December 24, 2001

HAWAII'S HOMETOWN AIRLINES, Aloha Airgroup and Hawaiian Airlines, have agreed to merge -- a move they depicted as necessary to keep both carriers from failing. Aloha and Hawaiian said the combined company -- operating under Aloha Holdings and using a brand name that has yet to be decided -- will continue to operate their current interisland, mainland, and Pacific routes, which would include the operations of Aloha's sister carrier, Island Air. The companies also said the combined carrier -- expected to have annual revenues of nearly $1 billion and rank 10th largest among U.S. carriers -- will hold the line on unrestricted interisland fares for two years. The closing of the deal is subject to federal and state antitrust approval, which the companies hope to obtain in the first half of 2002.

GREG BRENNEMAN, former president and CEO of Continental Airlines, will be chairman and chief executive officer of the new Aloha Holdings. Aloha Airgroup's president and CEO Glenn Zander and Hawaiian Airlines vice chairman and CEO Paul Casey plan to retire from their companies when the transaction closes. PLEASANT HOLIDAYS said American Trans Air plans to replace its L-1011s with new Boeing 757s for the Westlake Village, Calif.-based tour operator's scheduled nonstop flights from San Francisco and Los Angeles to Hawaii. The 757 service to Honolulu, Maui and Kauai will begin May 2 from San Francisco and June 1 from Los Angeles.

ASTON ADDED ITS 34TH PROPERTY in Hawaii with the Waikiki Parkside Hotel, renaming it the Aston Waikiki Parkside Hotel. Owners LaeRoc Partners said Aston's management performance at another of its properties, the Aston Aloha Surf Hotel, which sports a surfing theme, "outweighed other bids from competing local, regional and national brands" for the management contract. The 255-room property is just outside of central Waikiki on Ala Moana Boulevard near the Ala Moana Shopping Center.

THE BIG ISLAND VISITORS BUREAU launched a new Web site for agents and visitors that highlights vacation specials and packages at The site is in addition to the Big Island Visitors Bureau's other Web site called George Applegate, executive director of the bureau said the site offers specials on packages, large resorts and smaller lodges and bed-and-breakfast accommodations. The bureau said it has asked wholesalers to highlight the importance of travel agents in their specials on the site.

THE DOLPHIN QUEST PROGRAM at the Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Big Island changed its lottery-only admission policy to allow adults to make reservations for the dolphin encounter up to two months in advance. Previously, adults over age 18 who wanted to take part in the program had to put their name in a lottery a day in advance when they checked in at the hotel. The "pain of rejection" for those who didn't win the lottery convinced Dolphin Quest to change its policy, according to a Hilton spokeswoman. Reservations for children's programs remain unchanged.

ASTON HOTELS & RESORTS is offering travel agencies a 10% commission on rooms booked for travel agents staying on reduced travel agent rates through June 30. It is the first time Aston has offered a commission on the reduced rates for agents.

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