Mesa can't use Aloha name
BY Rick Daysog
Advertiser Staff Writer
A federal judge has rejected a plan to rebrand go! airline under the Aloha Airlines name, saying misconduct by go!'s parent company contributed to Aloha's demise.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Lloyd King disqualified go!'s owner, Phoenix-based Mesa Air Group, as a co-bidder for the Aloha name, saying, "Mesa entered the Hawai'i interisland air market with the intention of forcing Aloha out of business."
"Mesa succeeded in inflicting great harm, not only upon the Aloha corporate entities but also upon thousands of Aloha employees and families," King wrote.
"It is difficult to imagine a court overlooking what Mesa has done and putting its stamp of approval on Mesa's subsidiary, go!, becoming Aloha."
Once the state's No. 2 carrier, Aloha shut down on March 31, 2008, due to soaring fuel prices and a costly fare war initiated by go!'s June 2006 start-up.
Aloha's former owner, Yucaipa Co. of California, is trying to buy Aloha's trade name so that it can license the name to Mesa for a minimum of $6 million over 10 years.
The licensing deal is part of a settlement of an antitrust lawsuit in which Aloha alleged that Mesa attempted to drive Aloha out of business.
King said he considered Mesa as a co-purchaser as a result of the settlement agreement, which allowed him to bring the issue of Mesa's conduct into the case.
The judge first hinted at the possibility that he might reject the Mesa deal in a hearing in March when he cited an e-mail uncovered in a separate bankruptcy lawsuit in which a Mesa executive proposed driving Aloha out of business.
The e-mail, which was introduced in Hawaiian Airlines' lawsuit against Mesa, was written by Mesa Chief Financial Officer Peter Murnane, who suggested giving bankrupt Aloha Airlines a final push to drive it out of business.
"This will bring closure for many of us," said Randy Kauhane, assistant general secretary for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District 141, which represented hundreds of former Aloha workers.
"They should let go (of the Aloha name) and let it rest."
It's unclear whether Yucaipa or Mesa will try to appeal King's order.
Mesa CEO Jonathan Ornstein could not be reached for comment.
In March, King invalidated a similar sale of Aloha's intellectual properties to Yucaipa after an attorney for Aloha's court-appointed trustee Dane Field barred an Advertiser reporter and Kauhane from attending a court-sanctioned auction.
Former Aloha Airlines employees, who opposed the sale of the Aloha name to Mesa, praised King's ruling.
"I think that's great," said Grace Lee, a former Aloha flight attendant.
"The judge did the right thing."
Allowing Mesa to use Aloha's name would have been "a sore subject" for many workers who spent decades with the carrier, added former flight attendant Tracy Oshiro.
"I couldn't imagine our Aloha name anywhere near Mesa," Oshiro said.