Like most everyone in the travel industry, Hawaii wholesalers got
caught off-guard by the March 31 demise of Aloha Airlines and the
April 3 shutdown of ATA.
A majority of wholesalers demonstrated support of clients who
were holding tickets on those carriers by crediting the full value
of the fare toward a new flight, with the client responsible for
any increase in cost. One such company was All About Hawaii.
“We took a proactive role in contacting our travel agent
partners and supplying them with information about our defined
policy,” said All About Hawaii president Brent Mayes. “We posted
policies on our Web site with an exclusive e-mail address to help
handle queries, and we dedicated staff to reaccommodate passengers
at the best-available rates.”
As of April 5, the Tigard, Ore.-based wholesaler had taken care
of nearly all of its affected passengers.
“The speedy turnaround was a credit to the experience and
knowledge of our employees and travel agent partners,” said
Pleasant Holidays took a similar strategy, acting fast to take
care of displaced clients.
“The suppliers were wonderful and the agents were patient,” said
Jack Richards, president of Pleasant Holidays, which also operates
Hawaii World. “We had thousands of passengers impacted by the
closures. We stepped up to the plate to take care of those clients
because the integrity of our brands is the single most important
thing we have.” Now, Pleasant is reassessing the strategy of doing
business with an airline in bankruptcy, said Richards.
“We’re all used to airlines operating in and out of bankruptcy,
and usually it doesn’t seem to make any difference,” he said. “This
time, they caught us by surprise and we learned a lesson.”
Mark Travel Corp., which operates United, Funjet and Southwest
Airlines Vacations, was affected by the airline shutdowns on
several levels. It worked with ATA daily out of Chicago’s Midway
Airport, and it collaborated with Aloha for both interisland and
“Clients will be taking extra steps to see what sort of travel
protection they can get in the future,” said Ray Snisky, executive
vice president of LME, the holding company for Mark Travel.
Calling the closures “a sign of the times,” Snisky said the
soaring cost of oil and poor economy mean only the best airlines
can be successful.
“Hawaii is a microcosm of what’s happening to travelers’
confidence in the air industry overall,” he said.
Like its competitors, Classic Vacations applied the value of the
Aloha and ATA tickets toward rebookings on other carriers.
“It represented a significant loss to us, as it did with all the
wholesalers,” said Classic Vacations president Tim MacDonald, “but
we have made a long-term promise to travel agents to help them
succeed however we can, so we made the right decision.”
MacDonald hopes the recent publicity surrounding the airline
shutdowns will give travel agents a public-relations
“People who planned their vacations through agents had a
relatively seamless experience versus those who booked on their
own,” he said. “Clients need to know that in times of emergency, a
whole team the wholesaler and travel agent will work to make sure
the vacation still happens without financial hardship.”