Carriers expand their fleets to meet shipping demand
Pacific Air Cargo is leasing a Boeing 727 freighter aircraft, which was expected to arrive in Honolulu from Oakland, Calif., today, to fill some of the void left by the shutdown of Aloha Airlines' cargo unit.
The three-engined jet aircraft is able to carry up to 80,000 pounds, more than double the capacity of Aloha's cargo planes, which hauled up to 30,000 pounds each.
The company is expected to begin running the cargo plane this evening between Honolulu and Kona and Hilo on the Big Island; Kahului on Maui; and Lihue on Kauai.
Pacific Air also is looking to lease a second freighter to meet the anticipated demand for cargo services, according to a company representative.
Meanwhile, Alpine Aviation Inc. has added several flights to and from the Big Island, Maui and Kauai, as well as whole-aircraft charters between islands, said Wendy Lishman, company spokeswoman.
Alpine, which operates Beechcraft 1900s and 99s, twin-engine turboprop airplanes that carry between 5,000 and 8,000 pounds, is considering bringing in additional cargo-dedicated aircraft to handle additional freight once it fulfills its obligation to the U.S. Postal Service, Lishman said.
Kamaka Air Inc., which operates Douglas DC-3 propeller-driven aircraft and Beechcraft planes that can haul between 2,500 and 7,500 pounds, also is expanding its cargo operations, said Jim Petrides, general manager.
The company already had plans to upgrade its fleet with three more Cessna 208B Super Cargo Master single-engine turboprop airplanes, the first of which arrives in July, he said.
"Fortunately for us we do have the lift capability to double or triple our current capacity immediately," he said, adding that the company ran eight interisland flights yesterday compared with its normal four flights per day. It also began daily service to Maui yesterday, which it had planned to begin in July.
Ned Laird, managing director and owner of Air Cargo Management Group, a Seattle-based aviation consulting firm that has worked with both Aloha Air's cargo operation and Hawaiian Airlines for years, said it is unlikely that a major cargo operator will come in and replace Aloha.
Despite conventional wisdom that Aloha's cargo service was profitable, Laird said it had been losing money over the last six months because of the surge in jet fuel prices, currently at $3.65 a gallon.
"It's very difficult, if not impossible, to make money flying heavy jet transports in Hawaii," said Laird, a part-time Maui resident whose firm publishes the monthly trade newsletter Cargo Facts. To survive at current fuel prices, an operator would have to charge at least $1 a pound or more, about double current prices, according to Laird.
Hawaiian Airlines, which has ramped up its cargo services aboard its existing passenger flights, said that without cargo-dedicated aircraft it will be able to accommodate only a small percentage of the market.