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TBT (Throwback Thursday) in Aviation History: Aloha Airlines

Aloha Airlines survived for nearly 62 years, and had a long history of success and downfalls before collapsing in 2008.

Founded in 1946 as Trans-Pacific Air, its inaugural flight occurred on July 26 using a DC 3. The name was changed to Aloha Airlines in 1958. With the change came the Jetprop F-27. And in 1969, the carrier replaced their entire fleet with Boeing 737’s.

In 1972, plans to merge with Hawaiian Airlines failed. Four years later, Air Service Co. attempted to take control of Aloha Airlines, however, the bid was not successful. At this time, Aloha was flying high on its own.

Aloha’s sister carrier, Aloha Pacific, formed and commenced operations to Taipei, Taiwan in 1984 using DC10’s. But Aloha cancelled the route within a year, choosing to focus on service between  the Hawaiian islands, and also to expand to cargo services.

Again, in 1986, Aloha received another attempted takeover, this time by CNS partners, and again, the attempt failed.

On April 28, 1988, one of the biggest events in Aloha’s history occurred: the safe landing of Aloha Flight 243 following explosive decompression, which ripped off a large piece of the fuselage. The sole fatality was a flight attendant who fell victim to the decompression. The cause of the incident was metal fatigue. Despite the outcome, the incident was damaging to Aloha’s image.

At this time, many problems came upon the carrier. In 1992, the airline suffered a major financial loss after Hurricane Iniki. Though the decision to switch to a fleet of Boeing 737-200’s in 1996 produces $3.6 million, $4.3 million was lost in 2000 after Aloha commenced operations to Oakland, California. This was a result of aggressive competition for mainland routes and rising fuel costs. In 2001, 250 employees were laid off due to reduced travel following September 11. In December 2001, the airline again started negotiations to merge with Hawaiian Airlines, but in March 2002, Hawaiian announced they would not merge.

In November 2002, Aloha received a $45 million loan from the Federal Air Transportation Stabilization Board, and is one of thirteen carriers to look for  assistance after the 9/11 attacks. But despite the loan, the struggling airline almost lost more money than they earned, reporting a $43 million loss in 2002, and a $30.4 million loss in 2004.

On April 28, 2006, Aloha terminated 4,000 employees. On June 9, 2006, go! Air enters the market in Hawaii, offering $39 one-way tickets. Many money-wise passengers began flying with go! in appreciation of their low airfare, further costing Aloha Airlines.

In 2007, United Airlines offered the struggling carrier some hope. On May 3, United announced it would acquire a minority stake, providing the collapsing airline some support from the second  largest airline in the US.

But none of the attempts to revive Aloha Airlines succeeded. On March 20, 2008, the carrier filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection for a second time. The airline ceased operations on March 31, 2008, ending the Hawaiian-based carrier’s long history.

Ashley Magoon
Ashley Magoon
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