10 WHO MADE A DIFFERENCE
Mesa chief shakes up skies
Interisland airfares fell with the arrival of go!
Love him or hate him, Jonathan Ornstein stormed into Hawaii like a tsunami and has not looked back.
No one has made as much of a ripple in the state's airline market as Ornstein, the outspoken chairman and chief executive of Mesa Air Group Inc. He has been both praised and vilified since Mesa's new interisland subsidiary, go!, began service in June with one-way fares as low as $19.
Since then, go! has made $39 one-way fares its staple with occasional specials below that price. The ultralow fares -- anywhere from 25 to 50 percent of what used to be charged for the same routes -- have not sat too well with Hawaiian Airlines and Aloha Airlines, which have been forced to match the fares to remain competitive.
Ornstein, who loves the limelight, charges that Hawaiian and Aloha have been "gouging" passengers for years and that he wanted to afford the people of Hawaii a low-cost way to visit friends and families.
The fallout from go!'s arrival has been staggering.
Aloha lost nearly $10 million in the third quarter and partly blamed go! Hawaiian also cited competition from go! in reporting third-quarter net income of $7.8 million which was down slightly from a year earlier.
And regional carrier Island Air, which had been trying to stay clear of the mud-slinging, cited go!'s low fares as the reason why it had to lay off or furlough about 65 full-time employees, remove two aircraft from service and eliminate five routes.
Even a grass-roots group, which calls itself H.E.R.O., Hawaii's airline Employees Repelling Ornstein, put up an anti-go! Web site and went as far as to send him a T-shirt containing offensive and anti-Semitic remarks.
But Ornstein, who heads a company that will have more than $1.3 billion in revenue this year, said he is not deterred by his critics.
"We will continue to compete aggressively," he said. "The people of Hawaii can rest comfortable knowing they will continue to have low fares."