Image: Empty counter
Justin Sullivan  /  Getty Images
Aloha Airlines' ticket counters are empty after 60 years in business, ceasing all passenger service after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on March 21. The airline will continue to operate as a cargo carrier.
updated 4/4/2008 12:27:29 PM ET 2008-04-04T16:27:29

Wasting no time in capitalizing on the shutdowns of ATA Airlines and Aloha Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines said it will run nonstop daily service between Honolulu and Oakland, Calif., beginning next month.

On Thursday Indianapolis-based carrier ATA suddenly quit flying, leaving passengers on the Hawaiian islands and elsewhere stranded as it again headed for bankruptcy court. Virtually all of ATA's more than 2,200 employees were laid off. The move came just days after Aloha Airlines stopped passenger service after also filing for bankruptcy.

Hawaiian Airlines is the state's biggest airline, with flights to nine cities on the mainland — more than any other airline — including all four markets where ATA operated. It also controls a hefty share of inter-island traffic.

Hawaiian Airlines said late Thursday that tickets for the Honolulu to Oakland service will go on sale Friday.

Vacations getting pricier
The abrupt shutdowns of ATA Airlines and Aloha Airlines won't keep travelers off Hawaii's shores altogether, but they could make an already expensive vacation destination even pricier and potentially put the leis and luaus out of reach for many.

Flights to and from Hawaii had been a key part of ATA's business ever since the Indianapolis-based carrier scaled back its route network following a previous trip through bankruptcy in 2006.

"It'll hurt," said Minneapolis-based airline expert Terry Trippler. "They did a lot of business to and from Hawaii at fairly reasonable prices."

The carrier last year carried more than 632,000 passengers to the islands from the mainland, more than all but three other domestic airlines, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

The surprise announcement came just two weeks after Aloha filed for bankruptcy protection following years of losses. The airline, which served the state for more than 60 years and was the islands' second-largest carrier, ended passenger service Monday and is hoping to offload its cargo business this month. It flew both inter-island routes and flights to the mainland.

The one-two punch, coming at a time when the airline industry is already straining under rapidly rising fuel prices, will likely prompt remaining carriers to push their fares even higher, industry observers said.

"They've really been thrown a curve ball. Nobody really expected two major competitors to go away," said Robert Mann, an independent airline analyst in Port Washington, N.Y. "When you pull out a major carrier, it's going to create a lot of demand on the remaining carriers."

  1. Don't miss these Travel stories
    1. Lords of the gourd compete for Punkin Chunkin honors

      With teams using more than 100 unique apparatuses to launch globular projectiles a half-mile or more, the 27th annual World Championship Punkin Chunkin event is our pick as November’s Weird Festival of the Month.

    2. Airports, airlines work hard to return your lost items
    3. Expert: Tourist hordes threaten Sistine Chapel's art
    4. MGM Grand wants Las Vegas guests to Stay Well
    5. Report: Airlines collecting $36.1B in fees this year

Who will come out on top?
Hawaiian Airlines, the state's biggest airline, could emerge as the biggest winner following its rivals' collapse. The carrier flies to nine cities on the mainland — more than any other airline —including all four markets where ATA operated. It also controls a hefty share of inter-island traffic.

A number of other domestic carriers also fly to the islands, and each will likely see additional traffic flowing their way now that two rivals are out of the picture.

Delta Air Lines and Continental Airlines competed against ATA on direct flights from Los Angeles, for example, while US Airways challenged the carrier in Phoenix. Northwest Airlines, United Airlines, American Airlines and Alaska Airlines all also fly from multiple mainland destinations.

"It helps all the carriers who fly from the U.S. mainland to Hawaii," Avondale Partners airline analyst Bob McAdoo said. "There'll be less seats offered at really deep discounts."

Flights between the islands could also grow more expensive.

Hawaiian and Mesa Air Group, the parent company of inter-island carrier go!, have each recently announced plans to add spare planes and flights on routes within Hawaii to help make up for the loss of Aloha service.

Even so, experts doubt fares that have fallen as low as $49 or less one-way are sustainable over the long term.

"It's an unrealistically low price," Mann said.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments