Within ten days of one another, two airlines serving Hawaii that once held much promise, have departed permanently or gone out of business. Is this a coincidence or what?
We were all so excited when low-cost carrier Allegiant announced plans to serve Hawaii. And, following their experiences here in Hawaii, many of us were just as happy to see them leave. Their last flight between Honolulu and Las Vegas took place less than two weeks ago, ending years of speculation, hope, trials and disappointments.
Allegiant started flights to Hawaii in 2012. Thereafter, they expanded service quickly with service from Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Bellingham, Phoenix, Boise, Eugene, Fresno and Stockton. As you recall, prices started at just $99 each way. Two years later, however, they had terminated all routes except from Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Los Angeles flights lived on until 2015, leaving only Las Vegas until last month.
Allegiant never took off in Hawaii for a multitude of reasons. Those included a limited, a la carte service and pricing model including carry-on fees, seats that did not recline, long delays and flights cancellations, plaguing safety questions, aging, unreliable aircraft, and poor customer service.
As a result, Allegiant had very limited appeal to both visitors and locals alike. We chose to never fly Allegiant.
Hawaii’s second largest inter-island carrier company with 400 employees ceased operations last night after a long death spiral. Island Air entered Chapter 11 last month following failure to make payments due on leases of their three Q400 aircraft.
Passengers who had tickets for flights starting today were directed to contact their credit card companies for a refund. Hawaiian Airlines is also assisting in re-accommodating those people affected. The company is honoring Island Air passenger tickets through November 17 on a stand-by basis.
Hawaii’s love/hate relationship with Island Air was long term. They were a local company that served Hawaii for nearly four decades. We all wanted to believe in them and many of us continued flying them. But over a period of recent years, lack of reliability on a fleet of changing aircraft, among a myriad of other problems, haunted Island Air. In the end we just couldn’t trust flying with them and stopped doing so several years ago. Inter-island service is thought of here in Hawaii in the same way as bus or train service might be elsewhere. It needs to be ubiquitously timed and virtually delay-free in order to work. Hawaiian Airlines definitely has that model nailed, while Island Air simply did not.
Future Inter-Island Airlines
Everyone wants to see another company fly inter-island. It just doesn’t make sense to only have one company the way it is now. Southwest appears poised to potentially be that other company, though time will tell if that comes to fruition.
There’s something we know in Hawaii as is demonstrated by these two recent failures. That is that our all-critical airline market is a very fluid industry, and one where it is hard to predict future developments. If we have learned anything in covering Hawaii airlines for the past decade, it is that we are probably in for more significant surprises ahead.