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Letters 08/08

What our readers have to say

About Aloha Airlines


[June 2008]’s “What Really Killed Aloha?” cover story brought an issue to light we, in the business community, need to take seriously: sustaining and supporting Hawaii businesses for tomorrow even at the cost of short-term sacrifices today.

Sure, it’s easy to say and hard to do.

If Aloha Airlines and go! Airlines were now competing, could we really expect someone to fork over $200 for a roundtrip interisland flight when they could pay $60?

We can’t blame anyone for going for the short-term gain, but what about the long-term consequences? What about the Aloha Airlines employees who gave up portions of their salaries, lost their pension plans, lost a secure way of life and ultimately their livelihoods?

Can anyone put a price on that? Unfortunately, that’s what happened.

The story describes Colbert Matsumoto, chairman and CEO of Island Insurance, and his view that Aloha Airline’s demise is a sustainability issue much like recycling or supporting local businesses by buying locally grown produce. As he suggested, this issue doesn’t end at the ticket counter.

I can speak firsthand from the perspective of someone leading a local telecommunications company that competes with corporate giants. When our company was founded in 1996, we made the investment to improve local phone and Internet service by installing 300 miles of fiber network connecting six major Hawaiian Islands.

The cost was substantial. However, that short term investment paid off in the long term by giving Hawaii businesses and residents a choice for their phone and Internet service. The investment in human capital and jobs is just as critical. In 2001, we increased our local work force by consolidating our billing operations in Hawaii. Later, we challenged high gas prices by giving $50 a month raises and offering free Honolulu bus passes to each employee. Most recently, despite higher costs, we chose a local 411 directory service provider rather than outsource the function overseas.

I’m just one member of Hawaii’s business community and of course there are many, many others looking to sustain our economy, our livelihoods and our people, to avoid another loss like Aloha Airlines.

None of us intended for Aloha Airlines to collapse. It was just our way of saving a dollar today for tomorrow.

Pat Bustamante
Pacific LightNet
Honolulu, Hawaii
Via email

Regarding your article on Aloha Airlines in your June issue, while I agree with the overall premise — that we locals need to support local business — I think your article did not point out that much of the fault lies with Aloha for not making its case clear to the public.

Where were the ads from Aloha stating its case? Why was Aloha not pointing out to the public what dire straits it was in and what its demise would mean for Hawaii? I cannot recall a single ad, in TV, newspaper or radio, in which Aloha attempted to educate the Hawaii public about the unsustainability of $29 airfares. Where was the state-wide appeal to the people of Hawaii: “Do you want to see 3,000 jobs and a local airline gone?” I never saw it.

And where was your magazine? I never saw anything in Hawaii Business along these lines either, so you too share part of the blame. You are one of the major sources of business news in the state, yet you did nothing of substance to alert the people of Hawaii to the imminent demise of Aloha.

I feel that, had some of this been done, the people of Hawaii would have responded — and we would still have Aloha Airlines.

Bill Harlan
Kailua-Kona, Hawaii
Via letter

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