After the recent back-to-back casualties of Aloha and ATA airlines
disrupted thousands of travelers heading to and from Hawaii,
tourism officials expressed a mix of concern and guarded optimism
about the long-range impact on the state’s visitor industry.
Aloha discontinued service on March 31, followed by the demise
of ATA on April 3.
According to numbers from the Hawaii State Department of
Business, Economic Development and Tourism, Aloha accounted for 5
percent of the state’s trans-Pacific market it also flew
interisland routes and ATA had a 10 percent share. Particularly
hard-hit was Oakland, Calif., served by both carriers.
Hawaii Tourism Authority president Rex Johnson said the closures
removed one million seats from Hawaii’s North American market.
While certain carriers have already added lift in response, “it
will take more airlines stepping forward before we’re back to
capacity,” said Johnson. “We will certainly explore every
opportunity to continue to build demand.
“That said, this shouldn’t impact visitor perceptions of
Hawaii,” Johnson added. “HTA underwrote flights to help stranded
passengers get home, and hotels offered them special rates. That
amounts to travel insurance.”
Hawaii state tourism liaison Marsha Wienert concurred.
“There’s no question that the last few weeks have been very
difficult, but we are bullish about the future,” she said. “We need
to act as quickly as possible to maintain the health of the visitor
Tourism officials will meet in early May to make an
appropriation designed to encourage carriers to add more lift to
the islands, Wienert said.
Shari Chang, ResortQuest Hawaii senior vice president of sales
and marketing, agreed that Hawaii “stepped up to the plate” as a
destination. She added that the airline closures reflect the
overall market forces of a competitive airline industry.
“Hawaii as a destination continues to be an exceptional
experience in terms of its cultural offerings, outdoor adventures,
accommodations, service and beaches. In fact, with rising oil
prices and the unfavorable exchange rate, Hawaii provides the
perfect place to make the visitor’s dollar go further,” Chang
The passing of ATA and Aloha commanded headlines earlier this
month, but now they are yesterday’s news, according to Outrigger
Enterprises Group sales and marketing senior vice president Rob
“What’s relevant to clients is what’s happening right now,” he
said. “Adverse publicity fades away quickly.” Solomon said rates
for May travel out of Oakland are still reasonable.
“This summer, as always, you’ll see the fares go up,” he said,
“but looking at my computer right now, I see plenty of
affordability this fall. If clients are flexible and don’t visit
Hawaii in the high season, they will find airline seats within
Now that the immediate clamor over ATA and Aloha’s shutdowns has
subsided, the Hawaii Tourism Authority can begin formulating
“Certain markets on the West Coast are going to need additional
tourism promotion funds,” said HTA’s Johnson. Echoing that
sentiment was Ed Hubennette, Marriott International vice president,
fresh from a West Coast visit with sellers of Hawaii travel.
“Wholesalers tell me that Hawaii needs to boost marketing
efforts in base markets on the West Coast,” he said. “California
and Mexico have increased tourism spending, and Hawaii must step up
its own efforts.”
At the same time, travel agents need to keep a watchful eye on
airline trends in order to remain successful as sellers of Hawaii
“Agents must take the time to stay on top of which carriers are
flying and which ones have seats available,” Hubennette said.
|FILLING THE VOID|
Several carriers are filling the trans-Pacific void created when
Aloha and ATA airlines went out of business.
On May 1, Hawaiian Airlines begins nonstop daily service between
Honolulu and Oakland.
Starting June 5, Delta Airlines commences nonstop daily service
between Los Angeles and Kauai, and Los Angeles and the Big Island
Beginning July 17, Alaska Airlines launches year-round daily
flights between Seattle and Maui. Seasonal flights between
Anchorage and Kahului will operate twice weekly from Oct. 31-April