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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, November 29, 2001

Hawaiian begins exploring joint activities with Aloha

By Frank Cho
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaiian Airlines executives are meeting with state transportation officials tomorrow to discuss several proposals that would allow the carrier to coordinate some of its operations with rival Aloha Airlines.

Under an antitrust exemption passed by Congress earlier this month — proposed by both airlines and signed by President Bush — Hawai'i's two largest air carriers could be allowed to collaborate on schedules and prices and to share revenues to help them cope with the downturn in tourism since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Both carriers, however, have taken their time implementing any plans. Lawyers for the state and both airlines have been scrutinizing the exemption over the past week, cautious about about how far they can go in coordinating their business activities once they meet.

The two airlines are expected to submit a joint proposal, but there is no deadline. What proposals each carrier will come up with is still not clear since both sides declined to discuss specifics. But both said they will almost certainly center on scheduling, which carrier will get to fly what routes, and how those revenues will be split.

"This is something that is brand-new to us. We are making sure that internally we understand what the opportunities are and what the boundaries are, so that is the stage we are in right now," said Keoni Wagner, a spokesman for Hawaiian Airlines.

Both airlines suffered large drops in traffic immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks and laid off hundreds of workers to cut costs. Gov. Ben Cayetano waived landing fees and, with the help of U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, both carriers got an antitrust exemption passed by Congress.

The collaboration, which will still require approval from U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, would allow both airlines to save money by eliminating costly duplication of services and overlapping schedules.

Aloha is still studying the impact of the legislation on its business and has not scheduled a meeting with either the state or Hawaiian Airlines to work out a specific proposal.

"We have not talked to Hawaiian Airlines. We are going to talk to the state (Department of Transportation) about what is in the law and, after that, we will make a determination of our future actions," said Stu Glauberman, an Aloha Airlines spokesman.

The exemption will end Oct. 1, but could be extended for another year. Mineta also has the authority to end the exemption earlier.

Despite some concerns that collaboration could mean higher prices for travelers, state officials say they support the exemption.

"We are very sensitive to the fact that we have only two airlines to serve our island state and that is the only way for businesses and residents to get between the islands," said Brian Minaai, state transportation director. "The financial survival of both carriers is important to us."

Reach Frank Cho at 525-8088, or at fcho@honoluluadvertiser.com