More change are afoot at our local carrier, Island Air. The company has stopped delivery of new aircraft pending a comprehensive analysis of more than $18 Million in recent losses. What will the future of Island Air be and will this small competitor survive?
2014 Changes Included New Fleet Plans and New CEO
Last year, the company purchased in 2014 by Larry Ellison, announced that they would be acquiring state of the art Bombardier Q400 turbo prop planes to replace their sometimes unreliable fleet of aging ATR 72 aircraft. Island Air never took delivery of the first of those new planes in Hawaii, however, and to this day they remain in Island Air’s storage on the mainland. To make matters worse, 18 pilots trained to operate the Q400’s are sidelined and are currently ineligible to fly the existing ATR planes without additional training.
Island Air needs to decide quite soon which type of plane they will be flying. Being such a small airline, a single aircraft type is the only sustainable solution. The company has an option to acquire more Q400’s should it decide to proceed in that direction. An answer regarding their fleet and routes has been pending for months.
In addition, the company recently swapped out CEO Paul Casey with Florida airline veteran Dave Pflieger.
Would Island Air’s Demise Hurt or Help Hawaii Travel?
The loss of Island Air would, in the long run, likely improve the competitive environment in inter-island air travel. Island Air remains a minor player with less than 10% of the inter-island market, which is in fact too small to help create a competitive field. In addition they do not fly on all of the island routes. For example they offer no service at all to or from Hilo and Kona.
We believe that without Island Air, a new competitor to Hawaiian Airlines would definitely find our Hawaii market more attractive than it is today. A stronger duopoly would be the outcome that can provide the best service and pricing for Hawaii’s intrastate transportation.
We welcome your thoughts on Island Air
Personally we’ve had mixed results flying Island Air, but continue to prefer Hawaiian Airlines simply for reliability when it comes to inter-island transportation. These planes are like buses to those of us who live here. Punctual no-nonsense service is of paramount importance (even above cost) when flying between the islands.