Aloha Airlines, one of Hawaii’s premier airlines, has gone belly-up, dead in the water—or maybe more accurately dead in the air—with their last commercial flight leaving Honolulu International’s runway on March 31. The airline officially filed for bankruptcy on March 20, but the sudden news of an all-out cancellation of flights after March 31 came as a shock to the Islands. Known as “The People’s Airline,” Aloha has been taking passengers between the Hawaiian Islands for more than 60 years, first pulling up to a tarmac in 1946.
“[Aloha’s closing] is really sad for me. I always fly Aloha…it sounds a little strange, but I feel like they’re part of my family and now they’re gone just like that.”
The closing of Aloha hasn’t come without hardships and headaches for the average passenger. Ines Asami was aboard one of the last inter-island flights coming into Honolulu late last night. Between a few tears, she lamented, “[Aloha’s closing] is really sad for me. I always fly Aloha…it sounds a little strange, but I feel like they’re part of my family and now they’re gone just like that.”
Marie Owens, who was flying on Hawaiian Airlines on March 31, felt the initial crunch of Aloha’s death. “I’m lucky enough to be flying on Hawaiian today. I’m getting married soon on Kauai and just heard that a bunch of my friends coming from the mainland won’t be able to make the wedding because they’ve got tickets booked on Aloha. Unless they get reimbursed, they’re not gonna be able to come.”
For those unlucky enough to have already purchased tickets for flights scheduled after March 31, good luck fixing that nightmare. On their website, Aloha has posted a couple of options for the unfortunate that range from filing a claim in bankruptcy court to working it out on your own with your credit card company.
Aloha has been floating on tough economic times since the emergence of go! Airlines – a Mesa Airlines-owned organization – came to Hawaii in 2006 and ignited a price war with the state’s other primary air carrier, Hawaiian Airlines.
With the collapse of Aloha, United Airlines and Hawaiian have attempted to fill the void by allowing passengers with previously-booked flights on Aloha the option to fly standby with them. But with so many tickets already booked and only so many seats available, you can bet on a lot of really pissed and frustrated travelers for the next few weeks.
So what does this mean for the average passenger traveling to and from the Hawaiian Islands and the U.S. mainland? For those who have already purchased tickets with Aloha, a massive headache and hours spent dealing with travel agents is a virtual guarantee. And what about prices? As of press time, inter-island ticket prices in the near future remain stagnant and start at $49. Many locals see this as the bottom line and foresee ticket prices in the future going through the roof. And remember that god-awful Superferry that caused so much uproar a few months back? Well, for many families, that may be a whole new, cost-effective option.