Saturday, November 17, 2001

Airport bill could be
beneficial for Hawaii

By Russ Lynch

Hawaii's airlines and airports could get some financial assistance under national legislation that passed the U.S. Senate yesterday.

The bill was sent to the White House for President Bush's expected signature.

Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, who backed the legislation, said the Aviation Security Act "will improve the ability of Hawaii's transportation system to continue to function in times of crises."

One provision allows the Secretary of Transportation to approve an antitrust exemption that would allow Hawaii's interisland airlines to cooperate in some ways that would otherwise be forbidden. For a limited period, they would be allowed to coordinate schedules, make mutual security arrangements and collaborate in other parts of their operations for more efficiency.

"We've been supportive of the legislation and hoped that it would pass," said Keoni Wagner, a spokesman for Hawaiian Airlines. "It would allow the carriers to work together to a certain extent to make sure that all of Hawaii's communities are getting adequate service without having excess capacity out there at a time when maximum efficiency is needed."

An example could be both airlines looking at lightly booked flights going at about the same time on the same route and deciding together to cut one flight.

Aloha Airlines said it needs to study what the full impact of the bill might be.

"We feel they have succeeded in adding provisions that are beneficial to the state of Hawaii, the interisland air carriers and the people who rely on Hawaii's unique air transportation system," said Aloha spokesman Stu Glauberman.

Inouye said another provision of the bill would allow Hawaii's state-run airport system some flexibility in the use of federal Airport Improvement Program funds. That money usually goes into capital improvements but under the new legislation could be diverted for some operating functions.

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