United will keep flying to Kaua’i

United Airlines as expected yesterday filed for bankruptcy protection, with a spokesman pledging the carrier will continue flying while continuing to seek ways to slash expenses.

The carrier flies two nonstop flights a day from Lihu’e Airport to the West Coast, and two United flights a day arrive at the airport from the West Coast.

The high demand for seats on those flights will keep them in the air, said Sue Kanoho, executive director of the Kaua’i Visitors Bureau.

“Service to Kaua’i has been very consistent. It’s a pretty consistent producer for them,” she said. “So that’s good for them and good for us.”

Hawai’i also remains a lucrative market for United, “one of the more successful routes, and still desirable,” she said.

The Kaua’i Visitors Bureau is not changing its marketing plans, and has no plans to make any other changes as a result of yesterday’s filing, she added.

“I think that this announcement just serves to underscore the deep crisis that is plaguing the whole industry right now,” said Keoni Wagner, spokesman for Hawaiian Airlines.

“It is widespread. Every carrier is different in some significant ways,” but all are suffering now, he said.

Most carriers are losing significant amounts of money on a daily basis, with United’s losses calculated at several million dollars a day.

And although Hawaiian and Aloha continue to operate while also losing money daily, United’s filing yesterday doesn’t signify general panic in the industry, Wagner said.

“We don’t see this as a serious concern at this point in time,” said Wagner, whose Hawaiian Airlines also declared bankruptcy, then emerged after restructuring to maximize profit while minimizing costs.

While leaders of both major interisland carriers have said that nonstop flights from the Mainland to the Neighbor Islands have hurt their interisland business, they say it is premature to comment on whether or not the interisland carriers could take up any slack left if United didn’t continue flying Hawai’i routes, either temporarily or permanently.

“I think that it is a premature question. I don’t think that is a major concern, or serious concern at this point in time,” Wagner said. Hawaiian does have spare planes, but those are all used in rotation either in the interisland or transpacific routes the carrier flies.

A spokesperson for Aloha Airlines yesterday did not return a call seeking comment.

Staff Writer Paul C. Curtis can be reached at mailto:pcurtis@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 224).

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