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Benjamin Spillman

Aloha Airlines' shutdown leaves little impact

1 April 2008

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- The sudden bankruptcy and flight cancellations by Aloha Airlines is a rude disruption for passengers who were counting on the carrier to get them to and from Las Vegas, or anywhere for that matter.

But it isn't likely to have much effect on Southern Nevada's tourism industry.

On Sunday the 61-year-old Hawaiian carrier announced it would shut down service, including routes from Hawaii to West Coast stops such as Las Vegas, within 24 hours.

The news comes as another small charter operation, Champion Air based in Bloomington., Minn., also announced it was halting service on May 31. In 2007, Champion service represented about 292,000 passenger arrivals and departures at McCarran International Airport.

Aloha trails other Hawaii-focused carriers at McCarran in terms of passenger volume.

In 2007 Aloha was responsible for 44,260 passenger arrivals and departures in Las Vegas, a 24 percent increase from 2006.

But even the increase wasn't enough to put Aloha on the level with other Hawaiian carriers.

Hawaiian Airlines reported 362,611 passenger arrivals and departures at McCarran and Omni Air International, a charter Boyd Gaming Corp. uses to bring in Hawaiian customers, reported 143,504.

When Aloha shut down it was flying once daily into McCarran, a tiny fraction of the airport's approximately 550 daily arrivals.

Boyd Gaming spokesman Rob Stillwell said he didn't expect the Aloha bankruptcy to affect visitation, even at Boyd's Hawaiian-centric casinos downtown.

"It is negligible as far as we are involved," Stillwell said.

Aloha's problems likely had more to do with service between the Hawaiian islands than it did with a lack of business to the mainland.

Aloha's interisland passengers were often forced to wait in lines and battle for parking spaces with mainland customers just to take a short hop from one Hawaiian island to another.

The carrier was facing new competition from competitors with more efficient terminals for Hawaiian locals and cheaper prices.

Hawaiian travel writer Brian Berusch said there had been rumors Aloha was in trouble, and he wasn't surprised by the shutdown.

"I don't really see it impacting things that much," Berusch said.

As for Champion, executives blamed high fuel costs for the airline's demise.

"Unfortunately, however, our business model is no longer viable in a world of $110 oil, a struggling economy and rapidly changing demand for our services," Champion President and CEO Leo Steele said Monday in a statement. "Accordingly, the management team and our board of directors have decided that the best course of action is to cease flying and to wind up our operations in a responsible, deliberate manner."

Hawaiian Airlines and United Airlines are working to accommodate Aloha Airlines ticketholders, according to the airline's Web site.