Aloha takes fight to federal court
Aloha Airlines said yesterday that it will take its legal battle to Federal District Court against Mesa Air Group, whose incursion into Hawaii as a low-cost carrier has showed no signs of stopping despite legal battles from other inter-island carriers.
Aloha originally sued Mesa, parent of go!, in state Circuit Court last October, alleging that the upstart company had used Aloha's confidential information to unethically compete in the Hawaii market by offering below cost inter-island service.
Although Aloha could continue to pursue its claims in both courts, it said yesterday it has decided, for "judicial economy," to move forward only in the Federal court.
The company expects to file its new lawsuit in federal court today, said Stu Glauberman, Aloha's director of corporate communications.
The 60-year-old local carrier is seeking unspecified damages and a permanent injunction to stop Mesa -- which operates the new inter-island airline go! -- from competing unfairly and threatening the jobs of 3,500 Aloha employees. It also accused Mesa of predatory pricing.
"Upon further legal review of the federal antitrust laws, and given findings of Federal Bankruptcy Judge Robert Faris in the Hawaiian Airlines matter, we believe our claims would be best pursued in the Federal court system." said David A. Banmiller, Aloha's president and chief executive officer.
Though Mesa is also embroiled in a legal battle with Hawaiian Airlines for using proprietary information, the company has reiterated its plans to bring in larger aircraft before the peak summer season while keeping its one-way fares at $39 or lower.
Paul Skellon, vice president of corporate communications for Mesa, said yesterday a change in court wouldn't affect the outcome of the Aloha case.
"It doesnt matter where they file ... their case is completely without merit," Skellon said.
Jonathan Ornstein, Mesa's chief executive officer, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
He has said in the past that the go! does not seek to drive Aloha out of the market.
"Aloha should spend less money on legal fees and more money updating its 30-year-old fleet," Ornstein had been quoted as saying earlier in the court battle.
In May, Mesa unsuccessfully tried to get Hawaiian Airlines' lawsuit switched from federal Bankruptcy Court to U.S. District Court.
Hawaiian's nonjury federal trial is scheduled to begin in September.