COURTESY MESA AIR GROUP INC.
The new interisland carrier go! debuted its first aircraft yesterday as it arrived at Honolulu Airport. The carrier will start flights on June 9, competing with Hawaiian and Aloha airlines.
Judge tosses 2 antitrust counts against Hawaiian Air
Pacific Wings appeals a state decision on where to base the new interisland carrier go!
AN ADMITTEDLY skeptical federal bankruptcy judge allowed Mesa Air Group Inc.'s antitrust lawsuit against Hawaiian Airlines to proceed yesterday but dismissed two other counts against Hawaiian.
Bankruptcy Judge Robert Faris said he didn't find it plausible that Hawaiian was attempting to monopolize the interisland market, but said at this stage of the process he was required by federal standards to accept Mesa's claim.
Phoenix-based Mesa, whose interisland startup go! is scheduled to begin service on June 9, brought the countersuit against Hawaiian in March after the incumbent carrier sued Mesa for allegedly violating a nondisclosure agreement and using proprietary information it gathered as a potential investor during Hawaiian's bankruptcy. Mesa said it destroyed the information, as required, but the timing of when the data was destroyed and whether any proprietary information was used by Mesa is being debated.
Faris said he needs "to be persuaded" that the information was valuable to Mesa's startup Hawaii operation.
Phoenix-based Mesa, whose interisland startup go! is scheduled to begin service on June 9, brought the countersuit against Hawaiian in March after the incumbent carrier sued Mesa for allegedly violating a nondisclosure agreement and using proprietary information it gathered as a potential investor during Hawaiian's bankruptcy.
Hawaiian attorney Sid Levinson said Hawaiian and Aloha Airlines
have competed for 60 years without either one gaining a monopoly.
"If (a monopoly) were going to happen, it would have happened during the year when Aloha was on the ropes (in bankruptcy); instead they continue to compete as they have for the last 60 years," he said.
Hawaiian said in its court papers that Island Air, a former sister of Aloha Airlines, should be included when looking at the interisland market. When accounting for Island Air and using passengers as a yardstick, Hawaiian Air had 46 percent of the market in 2005 and Aloha had 43 percent.
Mesa has argued that Hawaiian's suit is a "sham litigation" and that Hawaiian was using the suit an "anticompetitive weapon to maintain (its) dominant market position and preserve its supracompetitive prices" by excluding or delaying Mesa's entry into the market. Mesa has sparked a $39 one-way ticket fare war since announcing its arrival. Both Hawaiian and Aloha have matched the fare.
"Hawaiian is ready to go forward with its lawsuit against Mesa," Levinson said.
A trial on that suit is scheduled for April 2007, while no date has been set yet for Mesa's countersuit.
Separately, Pacific Wings filed a motion in state Circuit Court yesterday seeking to block a decision by the state Department of Transportation to put Mesa in Honolulu Airport's commuter terminal rather than the interisland terminal. Pacific Wings wants Mesa to be put in the interisland terminal. A hearing is scheduled for June 28.
Pacific Wings, which claims it will be harmed by having Mesa in the commuter terminal, wants to keep Mesa out of the commuter terminal until an appeal can be heard. The state DOT last month had decided to put Mesa in the interisland terminal before changing its mind after objections from Aloha, Hawaiian and Mesa.
Pacific Wings said it wasn't given the opportunity to be heard on the matter as required by state law, and that the state failed to conduct a safety study on the location of the Mesa operations. Pacific Wings also said it would suffer "irreparable harm" because the DOT's decision presents a potential safety risk to customers and employees.
Pacific Wings President Greg Kahlstorf said he took the action because he wasn't able "to achieve any meaningful dialogue" with the state Airport Division and he didn't have any alternatives left. The Federal Aviation Administration also is looking into the state's decision to put Mesa in the commuter terminal, which also houses Island Air.
Kahlstorf also said that under the state's plan to put Mesa in the commuter terminal, Pacific Wings has been "completely displaced from our existing gate locations and shoved off to a corner of the airport."
State transportation spokesman Scott Ishikawa declined comment last night, saying he hadn't seen the suit.