Another sad chapter ends

Go! Airlines announced Tuesday that it will cease operations in the Hawaiian Islands.

The company, a subsidiary of Arizona-based Mesa Air Group, began operations here in 2006. At that time, both major interisland airlines, Hawaiian and Aloha, had just emerged from bankruptcy and were struggling.

Go! was born in controversy. Both Hawaiian and Aloha sued, claiming the parent Mesa had obtained confidential information during their Chapter 11 bankruptcies. Then instead of acquiring one of the struggling airlines, the suits alleged that Mesa used the information to develop a strategy for entering the Hawaii market.

Hawaiian reached a substantial settlement with go! but Aloha didn’t survive long enough to benefit from a settlement. Six years ago today, March 20, 2008, Aloha announced it was entering Chapter 7 bankruptcy. It ceased flying on the last day of that month.

Now, with the announcement that go! is, er, going, a fear of higher fares for interisland travel exists. But go! had gotten so small (flying only two regional jets) that the higher fares have already hit the market.

At least with go! out of the picture, the market might be attractive enough to bring in a true competitor to Hawaiian Airlines.

As we wrote last Sunday, Hawaiian Air has prospered and grown under CEO Mark Dunkerley. It dominates the interisland market and is adding both international and Mainland flights. Go! shared a small piece of the pie with Island Air and Mokulele airlines.

A new airline – or a combined Island Air and Mokulele – might have a chance against Hawaiian. But it would require a big investment in jets that could match Hawaiian’s Boeing 717s in size and comfort to create a true competitor.

Only time will tell if there are entrepreneurs willing to risk that much cash on Hawaii’s interisland market.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.