Passengers quickly took advantage of Hawaii's latest airline price war this weekend after all three major interisland airlines advertised $9 one-way fares for their major island routes.
While Phoenix-based go! introduced the low fares on Sunday for June 1 through Sept. 30, both Hawaiian and Aloha airlines matched the prices, the cheapest prices offered since Mesa Air Group Inc.'s go! started flying Hawaii interisland routes last June.
Most of the $9 one-way fares had sold out by Tuesday, but go! said it plans to expand the promotion through December, releasing more cheap tickets.
Jonathan Ornstein, chairman and chief executive of Mesa, said the $9 fares, plus taxes and fees, are meant to drive passengers to the company Web site and designed to persuade Hawaii residents, many using frequent flyer programs with Aloha and Hawaiian, to try the newer service.
"We're trying to pry people away from loyalty programs," Ornstein told The Associated Press. "To really break into the marketplace, sometimes you have to do outlandish things."
Ornstein said go!, which has captured less than 10 percent of the interisland market, had more than 1,000 passengers sign up for frequent flyer programs during the Memorial Day weekend, and 350 signed up for e-mail alerts of special rates.
The airline declined to release the number of tickets offered, but go! said thousands were released for the four-month period for flights between Honolulu and Kahului, Lihue, Hilo or Kailua-Kona.
Both Aloha and Hawaiian, the state's two biggest carriers, declined comment on Tuesday.
While some $9 fares were still available for late August and September on Tuesday, most flights were listed at $29 to $79 before fees and taxes are added. All fares, including the $9 tickets, carry fees and taxes.
go! has driven down prices of interisland flights since it first offered one-way flights for as low as $39 dollars and then cut rates to $29 and below.
Ornstein said while the competing airlines have complained about the low and unprofitable fares, they've both increased capacity by offering more flights.
It seems customers have benefited most from the discounted prices, as all three major interisland carriers posted multimillion dollar losses in recent quarters. Hawaiian Airlines last month laid off 98 nonunion employees as part of an effort to cut $4 million from its annual budget.
Aloha and Hawaiian have also sued Mesa, alleging that the airline is trying to unfairly drive them out of business.