Hawaiian Air CEO says demand 'stable'


POSTED: Saturday, March 07, 2009

Hawaiian Airlines, dependent on leisure travelers instead of corporate fliers, has seen demand remain “;quite stable”; in recent months, Chief Executive Mark Dunkerley said.

The Hawaiian Holdings Inc. unit isn't getting weaker each month, as is occurring elsewhere in the U.S. industry because of the recession, Dunkerley said yesterday in a telephone interview.

“;Demand is down year over year, but we're not seeing it get worse,”; said Dunkerley, who was in New York to ring the opening bell at the Nasdaq Stock Market. “;Things have sort of flattened out.”;

Hawaiian gets about 85 percent of its business from people traveling for pleasure, Dunkerley said. That's buffering the Honolulu-based carrier from slumping ticket purchases as companies slash jobs and spending.

Hawaiian's share of intersland traffic in the state has increased to 80 percent, from 45 percent, after competitor Aloha Airlines filed for bankruptcy and stopped flying last March. Dunkerley reiterated plans to keep 2009 capacity little changed.

Load factor, a measure of how full planes are, declined 4.8 percentage points for January to 78.3 percent, the most recent month for which Hawaiian has reported results. Traffic, measured in miles flown by paying passengers, slid less than 1 percent.

Hawaiian rose 26 cents, or 12 percent, to $2.51 yesterday on the Nasdaq for its biggest gain since Dec. 17.

A Travel Industry Association of America study for 2006 showed that 40 percent of all airline trips are taken for business and 60 percent for leisure.