Island Air welcomed a new addition to its fleet Wednesday.
The airline is following through with plans to upgrade its aircraft and expand its presence in the Hawaii with three new Q400 turboprop aircraft.
The first was blessed Wednesday. The other two have been ordered, but have not yet arrived in Honolulu.
“After extensive evaluation, review and comparison studies of different aircraft, as well as input from our pilots and operations crew, we reached the conclusion that the Q400 is the right aircraft that will allow us to meet the needs of our customers and provide them with the best interisland travel experience,” said David Uchiyama, president and chief executive officer, Island Air.
We wanted to know, how will these planes impact us, and will it make flying inter-island cheaper?
According to local aviation expert Peter Forman, the aircraft will be a welcome addition, not just for Island Air, but consumers too.
“For the airline, it really allows Island Air to say to the world, ‘We want to be the second really significant air island player in Hawaii,'” said Forman, “and that’s important because after Aloha (Airlines) disappeared, there was speculation that a mainland carrier would come in to replace Aloha. But with Island Air, these airplanes are nice enough where they have a real chance of being a significant second player.”
Catching up to Hawaiian won’t be easy. The company just announced last year was a record year for the company, carrying more than 11 million passengers.
According to Island Air, the new planes can seat 78 people. That’s 14 more than its current planes can carry.
“It’s a much faster airplane, so Island Air will actually be able to fly more flights in a single day, so it’ll be more efficient for them because of that,” Forman said.
Although there’s no telling if another airfare war may be on the horizon, Foreman says any competition will ultimately benefit consumers.
When asked if another airline, such as Southwest, may still try to enter the market, he says that depends on how well Island Air does with its expansion plans.
“Competition is good for the consumer in the long-run,” Forman said. “If they really establish themselves and gain a significant part of the market, then I think it will not happen. But if they don’t succeed with this Q400, then I think it would happen.”