Remembering ALOHA Airlines

The bird paradise logo used by aloha in the 1960’s

Inspired by the desire to create an airline where all Hawaiians felt welcome, Aloha Airlines served the islands for nearly 62 years before ceasing operations in 2008. Aloha was the first successful airline in Hawaii and had a long rich history of operating several different aircraft and international flights. The carrier began life as a charter propeller airline almost a year following the end of World War II. Founded by American businessman and publisher Ruddy F Tong on July 26th, 1946, and ceased operations in 2008 after it filed for a bankruptcy protection.

Despite still awaiting federal approval for regularly scheduled service, in its first year Trans-Pacific Airlines (or TPA) carried over 10,000 passengers. The carrier changed its name to TPA. At the same time, in a bid to strike out the competition, rival Hawaiian Airlines began operating the Convair 340 in 1950. It did not work as two years later, TPA, as the first Hawaiian carrier to do so, reported a profit. The airline took advantage of the surplus of propeller planes left behind after the war came to an end, along with their unoccupied pilots. Its first flight was operated by a Douglas C-47 reconfigured as a DC-3 from Honolulu to Maui and Hilo. The DC-3s were to remain in its fleet for another 15 years. In 1959, the ‘The Peoples Airline’ dropped TPA and picked up ‘Aloha Airlines’. It became public and more popular with the arrival of a new CEO and new staff, after three years later the airline upgraded to a fleet of a jet-engined fleet.

Aloha’s737. Funbird

The 737’s nicknamed ‘Funbirds’ by the carrier entered the fleet in March 1969 and as more of the model arrived, they retired their older planes. This new reach for capacity mostly came as a response to rival Hawaiian acquiring several DC-9s. However, both airlines gravely overestimated their ability to fill the larger jets. They both suffered financially as a result, triggering the first out of three failed merger attempts. Three attempts at a merger between the two rivals Hawaiian and Aloha Airlines happened throughout the years. The first in 1970, the second in 1988, and the third in 2001. All were, of course, unsuccessful. Above all, Aloha managed and successfully flew 84 737s during its time.

Aloha’s 737

Aloha Airlines Flight 243 was a scheduled flight between Hilo and Honolulu in Hawaii. On April 28, 1988, a Boeing 737-297 serving the flight suffered extensive damage after an explosive decompression in flight but was able to land safely at Kahului Airport on Maui. There was one fatality, flight attendant Clarabelle Lansing, who was ejected from the airplane. Another 65 passengers and crew were injured. Despite the substantial damage inflicted by the decompression and the loss of one cabin crew member, the safe landing of the aircraft established the incident as a significant event in the history of aviation, with far-reaching effects on aviation safety policies and procedures.

Flight243 after making an emergency landing

The beginning of the fall of Aloha airlines was after ‘Go Airlines’ came into service in 2006 as a regional branch of Phoenix, Arizona-Mesa-based Airlines pressed the prices down to an average of 39$ for inter-island flights and sometimes they would sell their tickets for as little as 1$. This forced its competitor; Aloha to come into the scramble for customer’s favor. One year before it filed for bankruptcy, Aloha Airlines was Hawaii’s tenth largest private employer. Unfortunately, the raging price war, along with an aging fleet ever more expensive to maintain and soaring fuel prices, all conspired to leave a struggling Aloha without buyers or investors forcing it to cease operations.

Aloha Airline’s advertisement,1997