Hawaiian to drop
flight coupons

The airline also will begin charging
customers a $25 fee for paper tickets

By Craig Gima

Hawaiian Airlines is getting rid of flight coupons, the preferred payment method for many interisland travelers, and will also start charging a $25 fee for paper tickets.

The airline announced yesterday that it will no longer issue flight coupons beginning Monday but that existing coupons will be honored.

Hawaiian Air Aloha Airlines is "studying the matter," spokesman Stu Glauberman said.

Travel agent Bonnie Gutner of Travel Inc. in Kailua said the end of coupons represents "a whole new game" for interisland travel.

"I'll be surprised if it really works well in this market, but local travelers don't have much options if Aloha does it, too," she said. "I think it's going to be hard for the local population to swallow."

Hawaiian also announced it will convert to electronic ticketing and no longer routinely issue paper tickets. Customers who want paper tickets must pay the $25 fee.

In the company's press release, Hawaiian Airlines' Chairman and Chief Executive John W. Adams said the changes were needed to save money "in the midst of the worst economic crisis our industry has ever seen."

"Coupons are the legacy of another era in Hawaii, when local carriers used them to build market share and raise cash, but they've outlived their purpose," he said.

"As airlines seek every possible way to become more efficient, electronic distribution and processing is becoming the norm and a necessity," he said.

Hawaiian also announced that flights to and from Lanai and Molokai as well as those that require a connection in Honolulu or Maui to go to another island will now cost an additional $17.50 per one-way fare.

"It's expensive. (Aloha's) Island Air, Hawaiian Air, it's too expensive," said Molokai resident Godfrey Akaka. He said that with a family of six, it costs him at least $1,000 to go to Honolulu, including rental car and hotel.

"If the price is going up, it's always a negative reaction," Akaka said. He thinks the fare increase means Molokai residents will fly on smaller charter planes to Honolulu and Maui, which are less expensive than the major airlines.

Hawaiian said most of its other advance-purchase interisland fares are cheaper than the current coupon prices of about $72 to $75. Tickets purchased at least seven days prior to travel start at $66 one way and are $70 if purchased at least three days before departure. The unrestricted fare price on most routes is $75, the airline said.

Currently some of Aloha's Internet and advance-purchase fares are also cheaper than coupons.

Hawaiian also has a $15 change fee for interisland flights and a traveler will have to pay the difference in the price of a ticket if the purchased fare is not available, said spokesman Keoni Wagner. For example, someone who purchased a seven-day advance ticket at $66 and changes flights on the day of travel will be charged the $15 fee plus the $9 difference between the advance-purchase fare and the unrestricted fare of $75 for a total of $90.

Wagner said Hawaiian was ready to eliminate paper tickets from its mainland and South Pacific flights and was going to make the change in the interisland market later this year. However, Hawaiian decided to make the changes now to cut losses in the interisland market.

"The interisland market in general has lost money for many years now and the general economic environment is putting such pressure on us as a carrier that we are compelled to make some difficult adjustments now because we have to," Wagner said.

He said eliminating coupons and paper tickets will allow the airline to save money processing reservations and to keep better track of its inventory of seats.

He said some passengers using coupons make multiple reservations and don't cancel the reservations they don't use. "That ties up inventory for other callers that might need those seats," he said.

Last month, both Gov. Linda Lingle and U.S. Rep. Ed Case criticized Hawaiian and Aloha airlines about the lack of available interisland seats during the holidays and called on the airlines to add additional flights.

Lingle said she had witnessed firsthand the inconveniences of flying since the state's two airlines were granted an antitrust exemption allowing them to discuss flight capacity. Lingle specifically mentioned difficulties in securing seats aboard flights to and from Hilo.

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