Hawaiian Airlines defends airfares on neighbour islands amid rises in costs

LIHUE, Hawaii – The chief executive of Hawaiian Airlines says airfares that have risen for travellers throughout Hawaii are reasonable given rises in fuel costs, government fees and other operating costs.

The Garden Island reported Thursday ( ) that CEO Mark Dunkerley of the airline’s parent company, Hawaiian Holdings Inc., says the airline operates on very tight profit margins.

“When we make decisions, we have to make them very, very cautiously, because it doesn’t take much to take you from … profit-making to loss-making,” he said.

Dunkerley told members of the Kauai Chamber of Commerce that the airline’s profit for an overseas flight with 294 occupied seats is the equivalent of airfare for four passengers. He said that’s why the airline emphasizes customer service — a bad experience could mean a bad time for one of those customers.

“We’d have been better off just not flying that day,” he said.

Hawaiian set a company record in 2013 with 9.9 million passengers. The company had $41 million in net income for the third quarter of 2013.

Fares for flights to and from neighbour islands to Oahu have climbed 28 per cent since 2004. But the company says gas, housing and college costs have risen more quickly over that time.