Location: Kailua, Hawaii, United States

Peter Forman is the author of Wings of Paradise, Hawaii's Incomparable Airlines, a 400 page hardcover available online at .

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Someone Just Blinked

So, what’s the big deal about go! raising its interisland ticket prices from $39 to $49? More than you might realize.

We’ve been watching a game of chicken in the Hawaiian skies during the past year and a half. Go!’s parent company set a well-below-cost ticket price which was matched by Hawaiian and Aloha Airlines. In time, the battle would force one of the competitors to swerve in order to avoid total annihilation. Guess who just swerved?

When go! entered Hawaii’s interisland market in the summer of 2006, they did so with a cost disadvantage. The Sabre study suggested that at a 62% load factor, Aloha needed $50 a ticket to break even, Hawaiian needed $55 a ticket, and go! needed about $67 a ticket to pay for the basic costs. Fuel prices have gone up since then, and by now the break-even prices are likely closer to $55, $60, and $70. What’s important is to take a look at the difference between the cost of a ticket and the revenue.

Aloha took a beating at $39 fares. If their costs are about $55 a ticket, then they were losing about $16 for every passenger carried. Some sources figured that Aloha was losing $6 million a month. With tickets at $49, though, the loss is more like $6 for every passenger carried. Thus, nearly two-thirds of Aloha’s losses disappear with the fare increase.

Let’s look at go!, though. They were losing about $31 a ticket in months with 62% load factors (December was about 65%), and with the higher fares they’re only losing about $21 per passenger. So, approximately a third of their losses disappear with the fare increase. That’s an improvement, but only half the improvement that Aloha realizes through the fare increase.

A fare of $49 is still a money loser, and Mesa is keeping the financial pressure on Aloha. Hawaiian is feeling far less pain, however, since the airline’s high systemwide load factors suggest that they’re filling more of their inter-island seats than either competitor. Go!’s parent company has kept some bargaining ability with this price, and the logical use of that bargaining ability would be to negotiate go!’s departure in return for a reduction in legal liability. Don’t hold your breath for logical behavior in this contest, however.

Besides the fare increase, go! has also reduced the number of flights it offers in Hawaii. Maui only sees seven go! round trips a day, for a total of 350 seats between HNL and OGG each day, each way. Thus, the superferry’s single roundtrip potentially makes it nearly double the player in this market than go!.

What does the future hold? If Hawaiian’s court victory stands, that airline can return to court in another year or two and request additional damages. Thus, Mesa may be liable for both go!’s losses and Hawaiian’s losses in the future. If Aloha is successful with their case, then Mesa could be liable for the losses of all three airlines. Such a burden would force Mesa into bankruptcy. Mesa’s core business showed disappointing results in the past year, even without the Hawaiian Airlines judgment. And now, go! has shifted its fare strategy from one of "victory at any cost" to one of damage control. Such changes often signal a significant shift in such a corporate war.


Blogger Unknown said...

There is no negotiating with the narcissist Ornstein. Whatever the reason of current events one thing is certain, Ornstein is no longer in the drivers seat. He has lost control, only he does not know it yet.

9:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No more lies, have you ever talked to the man? He is your typical busines man. I don't care for him personaly but I bet you are pilot.
But on with go!, they really did nothing wrong. Read what court found and they found nothing. they only lost because Peter, had a porn addiction. So when push comes to shove. That is why they lost. They never found anything on anyone else computer. So you do the math. On top of it. I Aloha asked for help and the state turned their back. So I have no sympth for them or Hawain. When you have dumb people around you, you can only make dumb choices then. Look at the government.

8:30 AM  
Blogger Peter Forman said...

I sat through the court proceedings and had little doubt (an commented to that effect on TV) that Hawaiian would win a sizable award. The prosecution brought in a computer forensics expert who detailed the dates and times of various acts to not only erase the materials from the hard drives but to also use special software to scrub the hard drives so that the erased materials could never be recovered. No one would go to such extremes just to erase porn from computers. To say that Murnane's behavior was the result of a porn addiction is the equivalent of saying "I can't turn in my homework today because my dog has an addition to paper." The court didn't buy the argument and neither do I.

3:40 PM  

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