FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Cars left the Hawaii Superferry's Alakai upon its return to Honolulu Harbor yesterday afternoon after traveling to Maui on its first voyage since an extended dry-docking.
Few passengers set sail with Superferry’s return
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With tradewinds blowing, the ocean ride to Maui was a little bumpier than the ride back to Oahu aboard the Hawaii Superferry yesterday as it resumed service.
Superferry officials acknowledged the load of passengers and cars was light.
They expect an increase in numbers as the service continues and special offers are made, such as a $39 per-passenger fare and $55 for passenger vehicles through June 5.
During its Oahu-Maui crossings yesterday, the Superferry had less than a fourth of its projected average load of 400 passengers and 110 vehicles.
A few stranded ATA Airlines passengers sailed to Honolulu on the Superferry to catch connecting flights to the mainland.
ATA ticket holder Kathy Luras of Idaho said, "Thankfully the Superferry was running, or else we couldn't get off the island for cheaper than $4,000."
The Alakai has been in dry dock since February for repairs and for its annual Coast Guard certification.
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FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
The Hawaii Superferry's Alakai returned to Honolulu Harbor yesterday afternoon after making a trip to Maui after an extended dry-docking. Tig Krekel, of J.F. Lehman & Co., Superferry's major investor, waved as he disembarked from the vessel.
The ride to Maui was a little bumpier than the return to Oahu, but the Hawaii Superferry's Alakai arrived as scheduled yesterday.
It was the vessel's first interisland passenger trip since it went out of service Feb. 13 for repairs to its rudder and other parts. The company had also sidelined the Alakai several times this winter due to bad weather.
The firm's business development director Terry O'Halloran said notice about the resumption of service was given only Thursday, and the loads were light yesterday, with fewer than 100 passengers and 50 cars one way. (O'Halloran would not provide specific numbers.)
O'Halloran said he expects the volume to rise steadily as service continues.
The Superferry will continue service with special fares of $39 for passengers and $55 for passenger vehicles through June 5, O'Halloran said.
Despite the cessation of passenger service on ATA and Aloha airlines last week, few travelers chose to take advantage of the special rates.
O'Halloran said the Alakai performed well during its resumption of service yesterday, traveling on the scenic north side of Molokai.
"It's in great shape," he said.
Walk-on passengers arriving at Pier 19 in Honolulu from Kahului said except for rough seas off Maui, the trip went smoothly.
"It was a great trip, great crew, great service," said Larry Jellen, 64, of Waikiki, who sailed round trip with his brother, Tom, 68, of Cleveland. Jellen said a third of the passengers got sick, according to an employee on board. "Going over was a little bumpy, but coming back was smooth."
Some passengers arriving in Honolulu from Kahului were ATA ticket holders using the ship as an alternate form of transportation to make their way back to the mainland.
ATA abruptly shut down last week, leaving some vacationers stranded.
Kathy Luras, 41, was stuck on Maui and did not want to pay $1,000 for a one-way ticket to Salt Lake City. Luras, who was traveling with three others, kept trying to find cheaper airfare. Instead, after four hours, they were quoted $1,800.
Luras said she was told by Delta Airlines that if they got to Honolulu, they could fly to Salt Lake City for $300 each.
The four hopped onto the Superferry at Kahului Harbor, got off at Pier 19 in Honolulu and headed to the airport.
"Thankfully the Superferry was running, or else we couldn't get off the island for cheaper than $4,000," said Luras, although she admittedly did not try to get a one-way flight to Honolulu.
Orange County, Calif., residents Long Pham, 24, and Mai Trieu, 28, were vacationing on Maui when Pham got word from his brother that ATA had gone out of business.
"It was pretty stressful just to find a flight back home," Pham said. The couple paid $400 each for their round-trip tickets to Maui but ended up paying $600 for each one-way ticket on Hawaiian Airlines from Honolulu to California.
"When we heard about ATA, we read the paper every day," Trieu said. They saw news articles about the Superferry, opted for ocean travel to Oahu and did not check on interisland flights.
"It was a little long but I liked it," Trieu said after arriving in Honolulu. "I enjoyed the view. It was a little rough in the beginning. ... Out here the water's calmer."
"It was just a different experience than taking an airplane," she said.
O'Halloran said the Superferry's projected average load is 400 passengers and 110 vehicles one way.
"At that load factor, this is a viable business," he said.
The company plans to run year round, despite the rough winter weather, O'Halloran said. "This year was a learning year" and also an unusual year for high seas and strong tradewinds, he said.