Island Air eventually will use nine 37-seat de Havilland Dash-8 aircraft.

Island Air finalizes deal,
launches service to Kona

Island Air has been cleared for takeoff under new ownership.

The Northern California company that purchased Aloha Airlines' sister carrier said yesterday it will mark its debut as an independent airline tomorrow by launching new daily service to Kona.

Island Air President Neil Takekawa, who will continue in that role under the new owner, said fares will be competitive with the marketplace and that the airline was not going to start an interisland price war against incumbents Hawaiian and Aloha airlines.

"At the very beginning, we talked about being complementary, and that position hasn't changed," Takekawa said. "We've looked at who the third carriers have been in the past, and none of them have been successful because they've gone out and poked the bear. That's why we want to be complementary to both Aloha and Hawaiian. We believe there is a market for three carriers."

Gavarnie Holding LLC, which jointly announced the deal last December with Aloha Airgroup Inc., did not disclose the price of the transaction.

However, Charles Willis, the managing member of the family owned company, said the four-plane carrier has done "reasonably well" in servicing Lanai, Molokai, Kahului and Kapalua from its Honolulu base.

Willis said one of the conditions of the transaction was that Island Air continue its marketing agreements with Aloha Airlines. Island Air customers will be able to continue participating in the AlohaPass program and Island Air will honor frequent flier AlohaPass miles accumulated by customers.

"We'd like to be marketing partners with Hawaiian as well," Willis said. "We plan to bring on a number of aircraft and, hopefully, we'll be able to provide a feeder service for both carriers.

Hawaiian spokesman Keoni Wagner said that the airline welcomed Island Air's arrival.

"What this does is allow Island Air to work with both Aloha and Hawaiian to improve service to the people of Hawaii, and we welcome the opportunity," he said.

Island Air, which already has its fifth aircraft in place to begin the Kona service, eventually plans to expand its fleet to nine to service four additional routes. Those routes are Hilo-Kahului, Hilo-Honolulu, Lihue-Kahului and Lihue-Honolulu.

Willis said that the planes for those routes should become available within the next three to six months. Island Air uses 37-seat de Havilland Dash-8 aircraft.

Another Hawaii airline, Pacific Wings, flies nine-seat planes among some of the state's smaller airports.

The initial Kona flight will depart Honolulu at 8:40 a.m. and then proceed to Kahului on Maui. Altogether, Island Air will make three daily round trips between Kahului and Kona.

"That's a big issue because that's a market that's underserved," Takekawa said.

Takekawa said Island Air already has expanded its work force to 250 from 230 and that he expected it to hit 350 when "everything is in place."


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