The options for getting around the Hawaiian islands may be expanding. Or maybe not.
A bitter and complex legal battle put the new Superferry back in the dock for three months, but it is now scheduled to resume one of its two routes on Dec. 1. And the future of interisland air service is very much up in the air because of a court fight involving go!, the latest airline to enter that market.
The Superferry had started carrying passengers and cars from Honolulu to Maui and Kauai this summer before a lawsuit and an injunction stopped it. Last week a judge ruled that service could resume while an environmental study is carried out, and the company announced that it will begin sailing again Dec. 1 between Maui and Honolulu. No date was set for the resumption of service to Kauai, where the local opposition has been particularly fierce.
Meanwhile, the Mesa Airlines offshoot go! began flying among the islands on low introductory fares that have put a serious crimp in the business of Hawaiian and Aloha airlines, both of which are recovering from bankruptcy. Last month a judge told Mesa to pay Hawaiian Airlines $80 million, ruling that Mesa had used confidential information that it obtained while contemplating a takeover of Hawaiian to compete against it.
Go! is still offering interisland fares starting at $39, one way, but nobody believes that any of the three airlines can sustain fares that low forever. When fares go up again, and they must, there may be only two airlines left. It’s just a question of which two.
Likewise, the $29 promotional fares on the Superferry are clearly temporary. If the Superferry can sustain operations, legally and economically, the fares will increase substantially.
As important as this may seem to tourists, it’s far more critical to the kamaaina, the people of Hawaii. We might grumble about paying $100 interisland airfares, but residents will have to pay them over and over again to travel within their own state. We might think that the Superferry is a great idea, or a terrible environmental risk, but the citizens of Hawaii will have to live with the consequences, either way.
So I’m planning to be in Hawaii next year with the husband, but I’m not planning our interisland travel just yet. I’m waiting to see what Hawaii will offer, and whatever that is, I’ll accept it.
P.S. Another tidbit of Hawaii travel news – the Honolulu airport now has a cell phone lot, where drivers can wait, out of the way, for a call from the passenger they are picking up. I love those, although in Honolulu I’m usually in a rental car or a cab.