Shane Nelson
Shane Nelson

Insight The recent news that Go Airlines will cease its Aloha State operations April 1 doesn’t seem to have come as much of a shock to many Hawaii tourism officials.

“It wasn’t a huge surprise to us because we’d seen a decline in usage,” said Sue Kanoho, executive director for the Kauai Visitors Bureau. “I was very grateful that they gave two weeks’ notice, though; in the past, we’ve sometimes had less than 24 hours [from carriers going out of business].”

Kanoho said Go was providing just 1,050 total available air seats to Kauai each week when the interisland carrier announced plans to end service across Hawaii this month.

According to the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA), Kauai receives a total of 169,700 interisland air seats each week.

“I don’t think there’s going to be much impact [in terms of seat inventory],” said David Uchiyama, the HTA’s vice president of brand management. “They were down to only two planes operating.” ShaneNelson

A subsidiary of Phoenix-based Mesa Air Group, Go entered the Hawaii market with $39 one-way fares in 2006, dropping prices not long after to $19 and even as low as $1 for an anniversary promotion before raising them again as fuel costs soared.

Aloha Airlines later cited both higher fuel costs and Go’s interisland pricing as major factors behind its 2008 failure, following more than 60 years of operations in the Islands. In 2009, Mesa Air Group attempted to rebrand Go as Aloha, but a federal bankruptcy judge stopped the name change after former Aloha Airlines employees protested.

Uchiyama conceded that “it’s reasonable to think there may be some fare adjustment” upward for the cost of Hawaii interisland flights after Go ends service here.

And while there are other established carriers serving the neighbor islands, principally Island Air and Mokulele Airlines, there’s no doubt Hawaiian is top dog in the market.

Asked if she was worried about a price increase in interisland flights to Kauai resulting from Go’s departure, Kanoho said, “I think everybody is.”

“We’re going to watch that closely and see,” she continued. “Once we hit a certain dollar amount, people will stop traveling because it’s just too cost-prohibitive. We’re hoping that doesn’t happen.”

Both Kanoho and Uchiyama discussed the possibility of Island Air or Mokulele committing to more interisland flights, covering the gap left by Go and perhaps more, but neither carrier has said it plans to expand.

Uchiyama also discussed the possibility of another outside entity entering Hawaii’s interisland market, noting that as Hawaiian becomes a competitor to more and more transpacific carriers, those airlines may see a need to protect their Aloha State passengers from rising interisland prices.

“I think they might run through the numbers to see if it makes sense for them, especially those that have ground crews already established on all of the islands,” Uchiyama said.
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