Island Air bids to fly in Midwest
Island Air is looking to spread its wings outside Hawaii.
In its first bid for mainland service under the Island Air name, the airline is looking to take over service to seven communities within Missouri, Arkansas and Nebraska.
The routes are part of the Essential Air Service, a federal program designed to guarantee commercial service to small communities. The hub for the outlying communities under the bid is the Kansas City International Airport.
The bid involves an undisclosed number of 37-seat de Havilland Dash-8s. The privately held carrier operates six of the planes in its Hawaii service, with one of those planes being used part time. No aircraft would be taken out of service in Hawaii, outside spokeswoman BJ Whitman said
"Our primary market is Hawaii and we will continue to build from our home base," Les Murashige, chief operating officer at Island Air, said in a statement. "If awarded, this expansion will help stabilize our company, allow for growth and spread fixed costs and expenses."
The carrier bid on Thursday for the service with the U.S. Department of Transportation, Whitman said. A request for proposals was issued Feb. 1 by the DOT with a deadline of Feb. 29, from which the agency would "shortly afterwards" provide a summary of the proposals to the communities and ask them to submit their final comments, according to a DOT filing.
Murashige said in a letter dated March 5 to the DOT requesting a three-week extension on the bid that he hoped to start service within three to six months.
On January 22, Mesa Air Group's Air Midwest filed 90-day notices with the DOT of its intent to stop subsidized service to the towns covered by the EAS including Grand Island and McCook Neb.; El Dorado/Camden, Harrison, Hot Springs and Jonesboro, Ark., and Columbia/Jefferson City, Joplin and Kirksville, Mo., as well as Manhattan and Salina, Kan., effective April 21. All of Air Midwest's service is provided with 19-seat Beech 1900s.
Mesa said in its most recent annual filing that it has incurred "significant losses (at Air Midwest)," and "with little prospect of future profitability we have reluctantly begun to liquidate those assets and operations."
Annual subsidies for those areas range from $627,100 for its 12 weekly Kirksville-to-Kansas City round trip flights to $1.15 million for its 18 Grand Island to Omaha or Kansas City flights.
Whitman declined to comment on the number of planes Island Air might bring into service there or whether they would be leased or purchased.
"I am confident that we will be able to provide an upgraded service to what is presently available to these and other outlying communities," Murashige said.
In late 2006, Island Air blamed the start up of Mesa's go! low-cost interisland service that June for a restructuring that included furloughing 65 full-time employees, removing two aircraft from service and eliminating five routes.
That impact on revenue also terminated plans announced in October 2006 to conduct mainland operations with an undisclosed party using three Bombardier Q400s.