By Frank Cho
Advertiser Staff Writer
Aloha Airlines, Hawaiis biggest interisland carrier, is again expanding, this time with new flights planned to Oakland, Calif., and the Marshall Islands in the Central Pacific.
Aloha said yesterday it is continuing a strategy started last February of serving less-crowded secondary Mainland markets and underserved Pacific destinations.
|Aloha Airlines is continuing its strategy of serving less-crowded markets on the Mainland and in the Pacific.
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The latest expansion includes direct service from Oakland to Konas Keahole International Airport four times a week starting April 5, a first for any airline. Plans also call for a new weekly service from Honolulu to Kwajalein starting April 9.
Last February the 53-year-old interisland carrier began flying from Oakland to Ho-nolulu and Maui, and Aloha executives have said they planned to explore other Mainland destinations. The company already has extended its routes to Las Vegas and is preparing a new service to Los Angeles.
"Our flights have been doing very well because of the convenience they offered travelers," said Shari Chang, senior vice president for sales and marketing at Aloha.
A spokesman for the airline said its planes from Hawaii to the Mainland have been flying at 75 percent to 85 percent capacity, and the routes are profitable.
But interisland routes have not been as popular.
Chang said visitor trends in Hawaii indicate that because of an increase in direct flights to the Neighbor Islands, travelers are flying interisland carriers less.
Last year the number of visitors who stayed on just one island increased about 6 percent, according to visitor statistics collected by the state.
Aloha cut back its interisland flights by 8 percent and laid off 15 workers because of the weak demand. The cut did not involve any pilots or flight attendants.
Still, there has been some turbulence in staffing. Aloha pilots and supporters have picketed the carriers sales offices to demand higher pay. Their union, the Air Line Pilots Association, says pilots settled for low pay when Aloha started flights to Oakland, but the routes are now profitable.
A spokesman for the pilots union could not be reached last night for comment.
Aloha hired 56 pilots and 80 flight attendants for the new Las Vegas service, which will start Feb. 14. An extension of its existing Hawaii-Oakland routes, the new service will provide one daily Honolulu-Oakland-Las Vegas flight and a daily Kahului-Oakland-Las Vegas service.
Chang said the Kona flights would use current staffing.
"There are a number of different factors that have contributed to the changes in the marketplace, but the interisland business is still our core business," Chang said.
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