Flights added, fuel fee raised
United fattens its schedule and Hawaiian stiffens its surcharge
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United Airlines will bring 10 additional daily flights to Hawaii during the summer, while Hawaiian Airlines again is increasing its fuel surcharge.
There will be enough seats available to bring visitors but sky-rocketing costs will impact how many can afford the trip.
The two leading airlines serving Hawaii made these announcements yesterday in the wake of cutbacks among major carriers nationwide and in the face of skyrocketing fuel costs.
Mike Navares, United's general manager in Hawaii, said the market is strong enough here to add the additional seasonal flights - which is not unusual.
In addition, United does not anticipate reducing flights to Hawaii this fall, even though it is scaling back its nationwide capacity 14 percent by the end of the year and laying off from 1,200 to 1,600 employees.
Hawaiian, meanwhile, has been expanding its interisland flights to pick up the slack left by the closing of Aloha Airlines, as well as picking up the Honolulu-to-Oakland, Calif., route that was served by both Aloha and the now-defunct ATA Airlines.
But Hawaiian also is boosting its fuel surcharge for the second time in two weeks due to the mounting costs of fuel.
Hawaiian said yesterday it would increase its fuel surcharges, translating into an additional $20 each way for trans-Pacific flights, effective Monday.
Just 10 days earlier, Hawaiian Airlines increased its one-way interisland fares by $10, and mainland U.S. fares by $35 each way.
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United Airlines is adding 10 daily flights this summer from the mainland to Hawaii, while Hawaiian Airlines is increasing its fuel surcharge for the second time in two weeks.
These latest developments were announced yesterday in the wake of cutbacks among major carriers nationwide and in the face of mounting fuel costs.
Mike Navares, general manager in Hawaii for Chicago-based United, said the carrier will add 10 daily flights to Hawaii this summer due to seasonal demand -- bringing the total to 30.
Beginning mid-June, United plans to add three more daily flights to Honolulu, four to Maui, two to Lihue and one to Kona on the Big Island.
Together this would add a minimum of 7,000 daily seats to Hawaii.
Furthermore, United does not anticipate reducing any flights to Hawaii this fall from its regular schedule.
"Our market is strong here, and we do have a commitment to the residents of Hawaii," Navares said.
Hawaiian, meanwhile, announced late yesterday afternoon that it was increasing its fuel surcharges, which would translate into an additional $20 each way for trans-Pacific flights, effective Monday.
That means a boost to $120 from $100 for mainland U.S. flights, an increase to $130 from $110 for flights to Pago Pago in American Samoa and a jump to $140 from $120 for Papeete, Tahiti.
"The bottom line is, fares are going to go up."
Hoyt Zia / Senior vice president, Hawaiian Airlines
Hawaiian said it had no choice but to pass on some of the relentless rise in fuel costs to the consumer.
Yesterday's announcement came just 10 days after an interisland fare increase by Hawaiian in response to fuel prices. On May 27, Hawaiian increased its one-way interisland fares by $10, to $64 from $54; and its mainland fuel surcharges went up $35 each way, to $100 from $65.
Mounting fuel costs -- at $138.54 a barrel yesterday -- are a major concern for airlines across the board and have resulted in cutbacks, layoffs and additional fees.
United's additional summer flights are hardly a drop in the bucket for the 1 million seats lost annually due to the closing of Aloha and ATA airlines.
American Airlines ended its nonstop service to Honolulu from Chicago in late May and announced it would impose a $15 charge for the first checked bag starting June 15.
But some of that lost seating capacity has been made up by additional mainland-Hawaii flights added by Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Hawaiian.
Yesterday, Navares said United would be reducing its nationwide capacity by 14 percent in the fourth quarter and by 17 percent in 2009.
Also, he said United would be cutting between 1,400 and 1,600 salaried and management United employees as well as 600 front-line employees by year's end.
Navares told the Star-Bulletin that the impact on Hawaii employees would be minimal, but confirmed there would be some cuts here.
United Airlines has about 1,400 employees in Hawaii.
The carrier also is removing an additional 70 planes from its 460-aircraft fleet beyond the 30 announced earlier this year, including its entire fleet of 94 single-aisle Boeing 737s.
United also agreed last month to a code-sharing agreement with Hawaiian for interisland flights. It had a similar code-sharing agreement with Aloha prior to its demise in April. Under the agreement, United's Mileage Plus members will be able to accrue and redeem frequent-flier miles when flying interisland on Hawaiian.
Navares said some additional challenges United faces in Hawaii include an increase in airport facility lease rents and landing fees, which he said could not have come at a worse time.
Besides picking up Aloha's route to Oakland, Calif., Hawaiian added a new nonstop flight to Manila in April. Hawaiian also announced earlier this week it would boost its interisland capacity up to a net 15 percent by adding four additional Boeing 717-200 aircraft to its fleet.
But consumer beware: The added capacity does not mean a reduction in the cost of travel.
"The bottom line is, fares are going to go up," Hoyt Zia, Hawaiian's senior vice president and general counsel, said yesterday at a breakfast forum in Waikiki sponsored by the Hawaii Institute for Public Affairs. Zia declined to forecast how much fares would rise by year's end.
Due to current fuel prices, Hawaiian will need to spend $169 million more this year, Zia said.
To date, Hawaiian has hired more than 200 employees, mostly from Aloha, and expects to hire another 160 by year's end, he added.