Mesa Airlines is planning an independent carrier that would fly between the islands of Hawaii.
The east Phoenix-based regional airline said Friday that service is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2006.
The company said it will connect the islands of Hawaii with service to the Hilo, Honolulu, Kona, Lihue and Maui (Kahului) markets.
Mesa will find investors to form a new company that will operate under its own Hawaiian brand, the company said. Mesa currently operates as America West Express, US Airways Express and United Express under contractual agreements with the airlines.
The company will formally announce detailed scheduling, consumer marketing and branding plans for the airline in the near future, it said in a statement. Mesa expects to market primarily over the Internet.
"While Mesa is new to Hawaii, we have contemplated interisland service as far back as 1990," said Jonathan Ornstein, chairman and CEO, in a statement. "We believe our industry-leading cost structure, strong financial position and high quality operations will allow us to provide a consistent and outstanding level of service."
"Project Hele," as it is known within the company, has been under study since early 2004. Mesa said it is in discussions with other airlines regarding potential code share agreements.
Aloha and Hawaiian Airlines already fly between the islands and many others have come and gone. Colorado airline industry analyst Michael Boyd said if anyone can pull of the service, it’s Ornstein.
"If it’s anybody else I’d question it, but if Jonathan Ornstein is involved, I’m in," he said. "It’s an expensive place to make money. There’s a lot of big routes there and, in some cases, that means you need airplanes with a lot of seats. There’s nothing designed with a lot of seats that was also designed to fly 30-minute legs all the time."
Because routes are so short, flights don’t get up very high and they burn a lot of fuel, Boyd said. The numerous flights also mean wear and tear on the aircraft, he said.
The big carriers are already fighting over capacity, Boyd said, clicking off a list of airlines that tried to make it in the market and failed, including Mahalo Air.
"There was another (Discovery Air) one that started up about 10 years ago," he said. "It was going to be jet carrier and everything was fine until the U.S. Department of Transportation found out the guy that owned it lived in Taipei. You had one that was called Mid Pacific Airlines that was very successful for a while and it went down."