Island Air is shutting down.
The airline announced Thursday it will end operations as of 12:01 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017.
Island Air’s last flight will be flight #449, scheduled to depart Kahului (OGG) on Friday, Nov. 10, at 10:14 p.m. and arrive in Honolulu (HNL) at 10:49 p.m.
Earlier this month, Island Air says it was forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in an effort to continue operations following threats of legal action by the lessors of Island Air’s aircraft to ground and repossess the company’s fleet.
The airline says it was unable to locate a new investor or lender to provide funding to support airline flight operations and a successful reorganization.
“Island Air has taken every measure possible to avoid this tremendous hardship to its passengers,” said David Uchiyama, Island Air president and CEO. “Island Air appreciates the loyalty and support its customers, management, employees, and vendors have shown the airline, especially during the last few weeks of this bankruptcy process. Island Air is proud of its 37-year history of service to the State of Hawaii.”
“My niece them were freaking out, because they just paid $500 for the whole family to go up next week Friday,” said Aiea resident Tyler Yuen. “It’s kind of junk, because now it’s only Hawaiian. Nothing is bad with Hawaiian, but I think prices might go up, because there’s only one airline now.”
“I think it’s really sad news. We need more airlines that fly the Q400, that provides excellent jobs for the local folks, and it’s really, to see another airline go down almost being gobbled up by the major ones is really sad,” said Oakland resident James Maher.
The news may have come as a shock to travelers, but aviation expert Peter Forman says he’s not surprised.
“Island Air operated successfully for many, many years with the Dash 8 airplanes, which seated less than 40 people, and when they got the ATR airplanes and later the Q400s, which seated twice as many people, it pretty much forced them out of their niche market, which was the smaller islands like Molokai and Lanai, where they were doing really well and forced them to go head to head with Hawaiian,” he said. “Of course we had Hawaiian and Aloha competing for many decades, so we know that it’s a big enough market for two airlines to compete, but it’s really hard to break in with an airline as good as Hawaiian with as many flights as Hawaiian has.”
Options for travelers
An Island Air spokesman said the airline is in contact with the other interisland carriers to request that they accommodate ticketed passengers, but the final decision will be up to each individual airline.
As for refunds, “Ticketed passengers should contact their travel agent or credit card company to inquire about their refund policies. Those who paid by cash or check may file a claim in bankruptcy court, however, such a filing does not guarantee a refund.”
Hawaiian Airlines released the following information for Island Air travelers:
Hawaiian Airlines is working quickly to provide flight relief for travelers who have been displaced by the shutdown of Island Air operations. Starting Nov. 11 through 17, Island Air guests holding a confirmed reservation to/from/via Honolulu, Oahu (HNL); Kahului, Maui (OGG); Kona, Hawaii Island (KOA); and Lihue, Kauai (LIH) can standby for Coach Class seating on Hawaiian’s regularly scheduled flights between the same origin and destination cities on the ticketed day of departure.
To qualify for standby travel, Island Air travelers must go to Hawaiian’s special customer service desk at the airport on the date of travel shown on their ticket to speak with a customer service agent and provide their Island Air paper or electronic ticket confirmation. Seats will be available on a first-come, first-served basis for flights on Hawaiian.
Hawaiian has increased its customer service staffing at airports state-wide, and volunteer employees from the airline’s Team Kokua Concierge program will be stationed at affected airports statewide to assist travelers and customer service agents in anticipation of a spike in traveler needs.
For Island Air guests who require a confirmed travel itinerary, Hawaiian will be offering a special $71 one-way fare, inclusive of taxes and fees. This fare is available to Island Air customers holding tickets for flights between Nov. 11 and Nov. 17. The special fare applies to roundtrip tickets that include a return segment outside the seven-day window. Customers can book this discounted fare by visiting Hawaiian’s help desk at the airport or by calling the reservations department at 1-800-367-5320 and providing their Island Air ticket number.
Hawaiian Airlines guests who are booked to travel this week are encouraged to take advantage of Hawaiian’s Web Check-In, airport kiosks, and drive-thru check-in at Honolulu International Airport to avoid potentially longer lines during this period.
According to the company’s website, Island Air started off as Princeville Airways in 1980 flying between Honolulu and Kauai’s Princeville Airport with just two Twin Otter aircraft.
By 1987, it had eight planes and was flying to the other islands. That year, Aloha Airlines’ parent company purchased Princeville Airways and renamed it Aloha Island Air.
By 1995, the airline was known simply as Island Air and began flying the larger, 37-seat Dash 8 plane.
In 2013, Oracle founder Larry Ellison’s company took over Island Air. The company sold a controlling interest in the airline to a group of local investors last year.
“Hawaii has enjoyed the Island Air service which has delivered residents and visitors across the state for the past 37 years. We were notified today that the airline will make its last scheduled flight tomorrow night. HDOT will work with Island Air on the logistics of ceasing its operations at Hawaii’s airports,” said Ross Higashi, Hawaii Department of Transportation Deputy Director, Airports Division.
The state Department of Labor has activated its rapid response team to assist the airlines’ 423 employees, which include applying for unemployment benefits, job placement, and training.
Meetings will be held Friday at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. in the Island Air passenger terminal at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport.
“We will be passing out information, brochures, and that kind of assistance, and those who need additional personal help, we’ll be there to do that as well,” said Linda Chu Takayama, director of the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. “”Our rapid response team will be available to provide information on how to apply for unemployment insurance benefits.
“In addition, the rapid response team will be providing services related to services we call Hirenet, which includes our job board and placement services for vacancies that are available throughout our state. In addition, they can sign up for training in different kinds of careers that they may be interested in,” she added.
Gov. David Ige released the following statement:
“I want to thank Island Air for its decades of service to our communities. For 37 years the company and its employees have played a big role in connecting island families and supporting our business community. The closure will have a tremendous effect on 400 employees and their families, and the state will be working with Island Air to help the employees apply for unemployment insurance and provide assistance with job searches and training opportunities.”
Without competition, could we see Hawaiian’s interisland fares rise?
“I think Hawaiian Airlines will be very responsible as far as their fares and we’re not going to see fares run out of sight. I think it’s going to stay pretty much what we see right now,” Forman said. “I don’t expect any big spikes in price. Island Air offered some really nice supersaver fares once in a while and those will disappear, but your average airfare between the islands, I think, is going to remain pretty much the same.”