Billionaire and Lanai island owner Larry Ellison may be finalizing a deal to purchase his second Hawaii interisland airline, go! airlines, although terms of the possible deal were not disclosed.
Earlier this month, Ellison told the Wall Street Journal that months after purchasing Lanai from Castle & Cooke Chief Executive Officer David Murdock, he was closing in on a deal to buy another airline "to improve access to Lanai."
Island Air officials suggest that the other airline is go! airlines, confirming that discussions are ongoing between the company and go!'s Phoenix-based parent, Mesa Air Group.
"We are committed to building a strong regional airline and part of that process is exploring all options, including discussions with Mesa Air," Island Air Chief Executive Officer Paul Casey said in a statement Thursday.
Mesa Air officials did not confirm or deny whether a sale was imminent, telling Hawaii news media only that the company "would always look at anything that would enhance value to Mesa and improve service and help expand our business."
County officials believe that if Ellison were to buy go! airlines, the merger would be a benefit to residents.
"Combining two small companies into a bigger one would allow a lot more flights between Lanai, Maui and Molokai, maybe even the Big Island," Mayor Alan Arakawa said Friday. "More direct flights would make it more convenient for everyone."
Go! airlines operates five 50-seat, CRJ-200 jets between destinations on Oahu, Maui, Molokai, Lanai and Kauai. Flights to Hoolehua, Kapalua, Hana and Lanai City airports are operated on a code share by Mokulele Airlines.
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported that if the deal were finalized, go! jets would be operated under the Island Air name, though airline officials did not confirm that.
* Eileen Chao can be reached at email@example.com.