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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, June 11, 2003

'Airline' to give refunds

By Dan Nakaso
Advertiser Staff Writer

Troubled start-up company Mainline Airways, which advertised $89 one-way flights from Honolulu to Los Angeles, has canceled its plans, shut down its Web site and promises refunds by Friday.

State officials with the Office of Consumer Protection obtained a temporary restraining order against Mainline last week, prohibiting the company from selling tickets or collecting money before it complies with federal and state laws. Stephen Levins, an attorney with the office, said he still plans to pursue a permanent injunction in Circuit Court on Monday.

Mainline CEO Luke R. Thompson, who is currently based in Henderson, Nev., and believed to be a college student, said in a letter to the Office of Consumer Protection yesterday that the company received 120 "pre-reservations" from potential travelers — a number Thompson called "much too low."

"Because of this action, we anticipate that public sentiment regarding Mainline Airways will fall to the ground as a result," Thompson wrote. "At this point, we feel that we will actually achieve better public relations by canceling our plans and insuring that all credit card authorization transactions are reversed rather than by continuing operations as planned."

Roughly 50 percent of the transactions already have been reversed, Thompson wrote. The rest should be done by today, he said.

Thompson did not respond to e-mail and telephone requests from The Advertiser for an interview. A school registrar said a Luke Thompson just completed his freshman year at Babson College in Wellesley, Mass., and will return in the fall as a sophomore.

Levins called Thompson's two-page letter to the consumer protection office "just one piece of correspondence at this point."

"To the extent that consumers can recover restitution, that's one of the things that we ask be done," Levins said. "And it would be beneficial to consumers that it be done."

Mainline is not certified to fly by either Hawai'i or Federal Aviation Administration officials. FAA officials have said that it's a federal offense for anyone to "advertise to offer airline services unless they are authorized by the FAA to act as an airline."

In more recent correspondence with The Advertiser, Thompson has said Mainline would serve as a charter service. On Monday, he told The Advertiser that his company would only serve as a tour operator.

"We had every intention of operating, but we cannot fill the planes now when the people of Hawaii are under the assumption that we are a 'fake airline,' " Thompson wrote in his letter to the Office of Consumer Protection.

"...We do not want a bad taste in the mouths of Hawaiians when they hear the name of our company, since we plan to come back in the future operating our own aircrafts," he said.

Allison Ferguson, a fifth-grade teacher in Provo, Utah, is glad that she and three other teachers didn't take Mainline's offer.

But they were tempted.

"It was almost too good to be true," said Ferguson, 27, who wanted to take her first trip to Hawai'i. "Apparently it was too good to be true."

Instead, they each booked a $750 round-trip ticket out of Los Angeles on another airline, which meant one of the original five friends had to drop out because of the price.

"We were very disappointed," Ferguson said.

She and the three others plan to arrive in Honolulu on June 20 for a 10-day stay.

"We're still going," she said. "We just had to go a different, more expensive way."

Reach Dan Nakaso at dnakaso@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8085.