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SWAjet 06-06-2005 09:42 AM

AWA making move on Hawaii market
America West makes its move on Hawaii market
By Dave Segal

Hawaiian Airlines, which repeatedly has talked about defending its turf after emerging from bankruptcy, already has its first challenger.

One of its code-share partners, America West, is planning to take on Hawaiian's territory as early as the end of this year by offering daily nonstop flights to Hawaii from Phoenix and Las Vegas -- cities that Hawaiian already serves.

It's a scenario that former Hawaiian trustee Joshua Gotbaum warned about last week when he said the company's biggest competition would come from other airlines entering the Hawaii market.

America West, which announced May 19 that it plans to merge with bankrupt US Airways, has been training its personnel on overwater procedures so that the company can get the necessary certification to fly to Hawaii. The company also needs an exemption to the requirement that planes stay within 60 minutes of a suitable airport.

Carlo Bertolini, spokes-man for America West, said the airline will enter the Hawaii market whether or not its merger with US Airways succeeds.

A bankruptcy judge ruled last week that other bidders for US Airways have until July 1 to enter a proposal.

"The training was going on for months before the merger announcement," Bertolini said. "I think it's no secret Hawaii is one of the most popular leisure destinations. (America West is) very popular among leisure travelers because of our competitive fares."

Bertolini said America West, which has a fleet of 143 planes, will use some or all of its 13 Boeing 757s to fly to Hawaii. The planes seat 190 passengers, including 14 in first class.

Hawaiian Chief Executive Mark Dunkerley, who was elevated to the position on Thursday after Hawaiian emerged from bankruptcy, declined to comment on how America West's presence could affect Hawaiian.

However, he told a large group of employees on Tuesday during a coming-out-of-bankruptcy celebration that Hawaiian has the capability to adapt quickly to changes.

"We're a much more nimble company," he said. "Our operations are simplified. We can react much more quickly. We're in a position to communicate better and we're ever more resourceful."

Hawaiian Airlines and America West entered a code-share and marketing partnership in 2002 to allow both carriers to let customers fly their combined routes. Code sharing allows a carrier to sell flights on another carrier as its own.

Aloha Airlines, which has been in bankruptcy since late last year and also flies to Las Vegas, was undaunted by America West's pronouncement.

"We're a low-cost carrier and we welcome competition," Aloha spokesman Stu Glauberman said.

Bertolini said America West hasn't completed its certification process but that "it's possible" it could begin service to Hawaii late this year.

"Phoenix and Las Vegas are our hubs and it's likely they'll be involved, but I don't know yet what the order of cities would be in Hawaii (once service begins)," Bertolini said.

He said he couldn't confirm a timetable that appeared in the Arizona Republic newspaper that America West would begin daily nonstop service to Honolulu from Phoenix and Las Vegas early next year, followed by daily nonstop service from Phoenix to Maui.

The newspaper also said that America West planned to add service to the Big Island and Kauai from Phoenix later next year.

Bertolini said that America West, which bills itself as the second-largest low-cost carrier behind Southwest, has made no decision on the status of its code-share with Hawaiian.

He said the two airlines can co-exist even as competitors.

"It's not uncommon in an industry to have vigorous competition while having an arrangement that's beneficial to both customers," he said.

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