Airline closure hurts visitors from Canada
Thousands of Hawaii-bound airline passengers holding reservations will be left without transportation after Harmony Airways, one of four carriers serving the state directly from Canada, announced yesterday it will cease scheduled operations to Honolulu and Maui after April 9 as part of a companywide shutdown.
The Vancouver, British Columbia-based airline, which provides about one-quarter of the airline seats to Hawaii from Canada, also said it will stop service to other destinations on that date except for Toronto, whose service will be stopped on Friday.
Harmony Airways, which offers 25.6 percent of the direct flights from Canada to Hawaii and 23 percent of the seats, is ceasing scheduled operations.
» Hawaii passengers affected: The majority of 10,000 people holding Harmony reservations
» End of Hawaii service: April 9
» Destinations: Honolulu and Maui from both Vancouver, British Columbia, and Calgary, Alberta
» Canada-Hawaii nonstop capacity: Air Canada, 98 flights a month, 20,466 seats a month; Harmony Airways, 70 flights a month, 11,970 seats a month; WestJet, 61 flights a month, 10,126 seats a month; Air Pacific, 9 flights a month, 1,406 seats a month. Totals: 238 flights a month, 43,968 seats a month.
» 2006 visitor arrivals from Canada: 273,167, an increase of 9.9 percent from 2005.
Harmony spokesman Norman Stowe said there are 10,000 people affected by the shutdown, with "the majority of those people scheduled for Hawaii."
David Ho, the owner of Harmony, blamed the shutdown on increased operating costs, overcapacity in the market and aggressive price competition from larger carriers. He said the 4-year-old airline, which has a fleet of four 171-seat Boeing 757s, will lay off most of its 350 employees and is exploring different business models, including charter service.
"This is the restructuring of a going-concern company that will continue to treat its customers, suppliers and employees fairly," Ho said. "I want to be very clear, this is not a bankruptcy. This is not a creditor protection arrangement and this is not a company dissolution."
Harmony, which started flights to Hawaii in June 2004, said passengers will receive full refunds for flights scheduled after the shutdown dates and will receive the value of the return portion of tickets if booked to return on Harmony after the closure dates. Passengers who booked through the company's tour operator, Harmony Vacations, and complete their trip before April 30 will be rebooked by Harmony Vacations, because the packages include hotels, condos and rental cars. More information will be available in the next few days on www.harmonyairways.com or www.harmonyvacations.com or by calling (866) 868-6789.
Harmony, which has a code-share agreement with Hawaiian Airlines, offers 70 flights a month -- or 11,970 seats monthly -- to Hawaii on 171-seat Boeing 757s from Vancouver and Calgary, Alberta. Code-sharing allows a carrier to sell seats on another airline.
Passengers are booked as far in advance as October or November, Stowe said.
Other airlines serving Hawaii directly from Canada are Air Canada, WestJet and Fiji-based Air Pacific, which has nonstop flights to the islands from Vancouver.
Canada, which represents Hawaii's fourth-largest market segment after the U.S. West, U.S. East and Japan, sent 39,742 visitors to Hawaii in 2006, up 14.9 percent from the previous year, according to the state Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism. In percentage terms, the Canadian market was the fastest-growing in Hawaii last year. It picked up this year where it left off with a 4.5 percent increase in January over the year-earlier month.
"Harmony has added a lot of additional seats to our market over the last couple of years and this will definitely leave a void in access to our islands from the Canadian marketplace," State Tourism Liaison Marsha Wienert said. "Last year we had a large increase and we've continued to see large increases in the last couple of months. There are a lot of seats coming in from Canada right now, and hopefully other airlines serving Canada will be able to pick up the void."
Calgary-based WestJet, which has served Hawaii since December 2005, said yesterday it will accommodate displaced passengers by extending existing seat sales to Honolulu and Maui, as well as Las Vegas. Those flights can be booked online at westjet.com, through a travel agent or by calling (800) 538-5696.
"While such announcements from the airline industry are sobering, we believe the makeup of the Canadian airline industry is extremely viable for two strong national competitors," said Bob Cummings, WestJet's executive vice president for guest experience and marketing.