Airline exemption
should stay as is


The two major isle airlines support a state legislative resolution urging a broadened antitrust exemption for their activities.

ALOHA and Hawaiian airlines have benefited from the antitrust exemption extended more than five months ago to help them recover from the aftermath of 9/11. That was intended only as a limited and temporary need. It should not be broadened into permission for a level of cooperation that would remove all competition from interisland aviation.

The exemption approved by the U.S. Transportation Department has allowed the two airlines to jointly set the number of passenger seats available on key interisland routes, resulting in fewer flights for both airlines, but not allow them to coordinate routes and schedules. Aloha chief Glenn Zander is asking the Legislature to support a broader exemption allowing them to divide up particular routes and schedules.

Even with the existing exemption, Zander told a state Senate committee, it will be impossible for the airlines to maintain the same level of service. The volume of interisland travel declined from 9.5 million passengers in 2000 to 7.4 million last year, he said. However, he added, the two airlines still were grappling with the new rules through the end of last year. Interisland travel in December was "a shambles."

Since then, "Schedules have actually matched capacity to demand extremely well," Zander said. Meanwhile, Hawaii residents have adapted to new rules requiring them to reserve flights in advance or pay more. Coupons that have allowed many passengers to treat the airlines as bus companies are on their way out.

Nearly all of the $100 million that Zander estimates the two airlines have lost in annual revenue since Sept. 11, 2001, were for the period prior to the antitrust exemption and the airlines' adaptation to it. The airlines' financial books reflecting the current period can be expected to be entirely different, according to Zander's own observations.

Attorney General Mark Bennett views a broadened antitrust exemption with understandable skepticism. It could "bring about a situation where the market could be divided by island or by city," he said, leading to Aloha and Hawaiian deciding, "We'll take Hilo and you take Kapalua," to the harm of the traveling public.

The Legislature has no power to broaden the antitrust exempt, only to urge Congress or the Bush administration to do so. Such a recommendation probably would not be needed, nor should it be.


Feds still in arrears
for migrant services


The Bush administration has proposed $15 million a year in compensation to Hawaii, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands for services to Western Pacific migrants.

AT long last, the federal government has agreed to a commitment to help pay Hawaii's cost of services to migrants from Western Pacific islands, but at a level that doesn't come close to paying the bill. The government has neglected to compensate the state for more than $100 million in services during the past 17 years. The commitment will provide compensation for little more than half of the yearly tab, if that.

The impending war in Iraq may dash any hopes soon of increasing the amount specified in the 20-year plan. Governor Lingle and Hawaii's congressional delegation should work to gain increases from the Bush administration when the economy improves.

The islands -- the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of the Marshall Islands -- were part of the United Nations Trust Territory of the Pacific administered by the United States until the federal government agreed to their self-rule in 1986. They have received more than $2.5 billion from the United States since then, but that has not dissuaded many from leaving their homeland for opportunities in Hawaii, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. That migration was allowed under the Compacts of Free Association.

In a letter to the federal General Accounting Office a year and a half ago, then-Gov. Ben Cayetano estimated the cost of social services and medical and financial assistance needed by poor migrants from the islands at $15 million a year. He noted that Hawaii had received only $4 million in compensation since the 1986 compacts. The state Legislature asked Congress last year to compensate the state for the $100 million in assistance provided to the Western islanders over the years.

Instead, the Bush administration has proposed annual payments of $15 million, beginning in the next fiscal year, to be shared according to the number of migrants among Hawaii, Guam and the Northern Marianas. The estimated 6,000 migrants in Hawaii are believed to account for less than half the migrants.

Rep. Neil Abercrombie calls the proposed amount "arbitrary but not capricious." The commitment will not end the yearly ordeal of begging to the government for compensation. Instead, the congressional delegation and state officials should work to raise the annual amount to better reflect the actual cost of services. The $15 million figure will be a starting point.


Published by Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press.

Don Kendall, Publisher

Frank Bridgewater, Editor 529-4791;
Michael Rovner, Assistant Editor 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, Assistant Editor 529-4762;

Mary Poole, Editorial Page Editor, 529-4748;

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin (USPS 249460) is published daily by
Oahu Publications at 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 7-500, Honolulu, Hawaii 96813.
Periodicals postage paid at Honolulu, Hawaii. Postmaster: Send address changes to
Star-Bulletin, P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, Hawaii 96802.

E-mail to Editorial Editor

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2003 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --