Airlines say go! taking revenge for criticism
Its $19 fare hits back at their workers, say Hawaiian and Aloha
The state's two largest airlines, longtime rivals and one-time partners in a failed merger attempt, reunited yesterday on a common mission: to stop go!
Hawaiian Airlines and Aloha Airlines harshly criticized go! in separate statements in which they accused the Mesa Air Group subsidiary of taking "retribution" against other airline employees, disrupting the Hawaii market and trying to drive Aloha out of business.
Their stinging comments came after Mesa Air Group's go!, which has accused the incumbent carriers of gouging passengers, shook up the interisland fare structure once again by dropping one-way fares from $28 to $19. Both Hawaiian and Aloha have matched the latest fares.
"It's clear that go!'s latest action is a direct attack on the livelihood of Aloha's employees and their families," said David Banmiller, president and chief executive of Aloha. "The people of Hawaii are smart enough to know that a $19 interisland fare is nothing but a sham, and the promise of long-term low fares is mere rhetoric. In fact, there is evidence that go! has a plan to drive out hometown airlines and then raise prices for its own gain."
Banmiller said yesterday that Aloha was canceling a ticket and baggage agreement it had with go!. The agreement allowed Aloha to accept go!'s tickets when go! flights are canceled or delayed, and also allowed Aloha to accept go!'s baggage when go! was unable to carry a passenger's bags.
But Jonathan Ornstein, chairman and CEO of Mesa, called Aloha's action "silly" and said many airlines have such an agreement while still competing with each other. Ornstein said he had been planning to cancel the agreement anyway because of unconfirmed reports he had received that Aloha was giving its employees incentives to approach go! customers at the curb and offer to put them on Aloha flights so they wouldn't have to wait. Under the agreement, go! had to reimburse Aloha for such instances.
Aloha spokesman Stu Glauberman called Ornstein's charge "preposterous."
Hawaiian introduced e-mails in a Bankruptcy Court hearing last week which allegedly showed that Mesa planned to enter the interisland market with the intent of giving "the last push" to Aloha, which emerged from bankruptcy in February. Hawaiian is seeking a preliminary injunction to prevent go! from selling tickets for a year because Hawaiian claims Mesa used proprietary information gathered as a potential bidder during Hawaiian's bankruptcy to enter the interisland market.
Go!'s so-called $19 "Hero" fare, which must be purchased by next Saturday, apparently is a retaliatory shot at a group of Hawaiian, Aloha and Island Air employees who have put up a Web site called www.dontflygo.com. The name of their group is H.E.R.O., "Hawaii's airline Employees Repelling Ornstein."
"Mesa's retribution against employees for speaking out with this 'Hero' fare is as appalling as it is revealing," said Mark Dunkerley, president and CEO of Hawaiian. "Everyone knows that $19 won't be the long-term price of interisland air travel."
H.E.R.O. put a statement on its Web site yesterday in which it acknowledged the go! promotional fare "is clearly a direct response to our campaign to tell the truth."
"In the end, 'clever' marketing, deception and bully tactics by Mesa will only further expose this organization for what it is," the statement read. "In the end, Mesa's destructive campaign will succumb to the truth."
Dunkerley said evidence of Mesa's "true motives" was revealed in court last week.
"If it wasn't clear to everyone before, it should be now that Mesa is trying to eliminate competition in Hawaii," he said.
Ornstein said the personal attacks on him by Hawaiian, Aloha and the grass-roots group demonstrate their "desperation."
"The claim that we're trying to run them out of business with only 9 percent of the (seat) capacity is just a preposterous statement," Ornstein said. "No one's forcing them to match (the fares). They choose to match."