Letters to the Business Editor
Mesa's CEO 'must be brought to justice'
Hawaiian Airlines has every right to sue Mesa Airlines.
Mesa Airlines is waging a brutal PR campaign against Hawaiian and Aloha, and Mesa is making up their own rules. When Mesa runs into laws designed to protect our businesses and employees from predatory business practices, their CEO Jonathan G. Ornstein cries foul.
First he incredulously says, "This is the most preposterous thing I've ever encountered." Next, he shifts blame back to Hawaiian, then finally he threatens our airlines with the promise of 12 more larger 90- to 116-seat aircraft.
Mesa wouldn't dare refer to their Texas and New Mexico operation "The New Southwest Airline" or "Mesa, the Southwest Airline," as they have done in our marketplace with Hawaiian. There is no way Mesa's Canadairs can match Southwest's cost per seat in the Boeings and Ornstein knows it.
Mesa's prices out of Tucson, Ariz., and other cities they serve are no less than 200 percent higher than what they are charging in Hawaii. In ski towns such as Steamboat Springs and Aspen, Colo., Mesa charges up to 1,600 percent more than Hawaii. Mesa's prices and marketing in Hawaii is misleading at best, hostile at worst.
Ornstein must be brought to justice for his flagrant lack of regard for our local economy, copyright and federal bank-ruptcy laws. His quotes to the media since last September prove he thinks it is perfectly acceptable to push around our local airlines like a modern-day beach bully. I look forward to seeing him in court on Aug. 7 (now rescheduled to Sept. 15).
I am sure in his mind, Hawaiian and Aloha are already on their final death throes, succumbing to the superior and almighty Mesa.
Unfortunately for Ornstein, as Hawaiian and Aloha are both very much alive and flying daily operations, for now they must choose a different marketing idea than calling go! "A Hawaiian Airline" or "The New Hawaiian Airline." They need to accept that Mesa is NOT Hawaiian and Mesa will NEVER have Aloha.
Hawaiian Airlines not showing much aloha
If Hawaiian Airlines continues to try and bully a competitor in this tactic (demanding that Mesa remove references to the word "Hawaiian" from its Web site), I will cease to use this airline, cancel my credit card, donate the rest of my miles to charity and insist all of my family members do the same.
To continue on this tactic is just plain "inhospitable," and completely contrary to Hawaiian beliefs.
The real price of a $19 ticket is much greater
Ladies and gentlemen, a piece of our local ohana is being threatened while we are oblivious. We are smugly content with the local airline fare wars.
I mean it is great that we are not even having to pay the full cost of interisland air travel, isn't it? At a fare of $19 a ticket, it does not even pay the real expense of operating an airline, let alone generating a profit. Well, who is so generous that they are going to subsidize me to see my auntie on the Big Island? Well, go!, of course.
Why is go! being so generous? How is go! able to offer these fares when our local carriers are struggling to stay alive?
Maybe it is the philanthropy of go!'s CEO Jonathan Ornstein repaying a debt to society. Ornstein, previously in his career as a stock broker, had his license suspended and was fined $20,000 for unauthorized trading, misrepresentation, document alteration and churning, as reported by an August 1999 article in Forbes. Included in the article, Ornstein amassed a 21-page securities disciplinary record.
I am sure, though, the upstanding Mr.Ornstein has been losing sleep over the people of Hawaii paying too much for interisland airfare.
How long will go! continue your $19 airfare subsidy? Maybe just long enough for one of our local carriers to fail. No?
According to the same Forbes article, Ornstein claims the simple answer to Mesa Airlines, the parent company of go!'s huge success is: "We stopped flying where we lost money."
Well, apparently they have planned to lose quite a bit of money. As quoted by Ornstein in an article in the Pacific Business News published in March 2006, Mesa wants to fly planes empty and cover it.
"The Hawaii operation costs about $20 million to $25 million a year -- we can lose that much money. We can cover it." But can our local airlines survive this seemingly predatory pricing from go!?
How long would it take for Ornstein to raise fares after a failure of one or both of our local airlines? $19 seems great, almost like a 0 percent introductory rate high-interest credit card, but what would be the real cost to the people of Hawaii in the future? When do we really pay?
Well, if one of our local air carriers fails, that would be an immediate loss of 3,000 to 4,000 livable wage jobs in the islands. Huge, yes, but that is only half of the picture.
In order to compete with go!, the remaining local carriers would have to extract huge wage-and-benefit concessions from its employees to be competitive with Mesa's employee pay scale.
To put this in perspective, many in the employ of Mesa, who have families, qualify for federal aid/welfare assistance. This effect would be linear throughout the islands via a ripple effect of those whose incomes are directly connected to both local airlines' employee groups, i.e., private schools, dry cleaners, restaurants, etc.
Does this $19 dollar fare still sound as cheap? No-go-J.O.!
Furloughed Hawaiian Airlines pilot and active US Airways pilot
Editor's note: The $19 one-way fare was a two-day promotion ahead of go!'s debut flight. It's lowest one-way fare now is $39.