Losses at Hawaii airline go! hit $7.4M

Despite the shutdown of Aloha Airlines in March, losses at go! doubled during the airline's latest quarter.

Go! posted operating losses of $7.4 million during the three months ending June 30, 2008, which was up from a $3.7 million loss in the year-earlier period.

The red ink at go! was enough to bring down the overall performance of the airline's parent, Phoenix-based Mesa Air Group. Mesa said it lost $3.2 million during its third quarter.

Shares of Mesa rose 2 cents yesterday to close at 54 cents on the Nasdaq market.

"While the airline industry in general, and Mesa in particular, face a number of challenges in today's exceptionally difficult operating environment, we remain resolutely committed to returning the company to sustained profitability and delivering the best service possible to our passengers and airline partners," Mesa Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Ornstein said in a news release.

Go!'s loss contrasts with Hawaiian Airlines' $1.8 million profit, excluding one-time events, in the second quarter.

During the past nine months, go! has lost a total of $22.9 million, which was up from $9.5 million during the year-earlier period.

The March 31 shutdown of Aloha Airlines boosted go!'s sales as the upstart carrier added flights to make up for the loss of the state's No. 2 carrier.

The company's operating revenues increased 151% to $15.6 million from the year-earlier quarter's $6.2 million.

But the company's costs also soared because of rising fuel prices. The company said its operating expenses increased 131.9% to $23 million from third quarter 2007's $9.9 million.

According to Mesa, the average price for a gallon of jet fuel rose to $3.78 during the latest quarter from an average of $2.30 during the year-earlier quarter.

That increased go!'s quarterly jet fuel tab by $3.8 million, Mesa said.

Mesa sparked an intra-Hawaii fare war when it launched go! in June 2006 as one-way fares dropped by half to about $29. But with rising fuel prices and the March shutdown of Aloha, the basic intra-Hawaii fare has risen to $64.

Go!'s weak financial results are just the latest in a string of bad news for the intra-Hawaii carrier and its Mainland parent.

In April, Mesa agreed to pay Hawaiian $52.5 million to settle allegations that Mesa used confidential business information it received from Hawaiian to launch go! The settlement came as Mesa appealed a ruling by federal bankruptcy Judge Robert Faris awarding Hawaiian $80 million.

In March, Delta Air Lines notified Mesa that it was going to cancel its $20 million a month contract to provide regional air service. Mesa warned investors that it could file for bankruptcy and lay off 700 workers if the cancellation went through.

In May, a federal judge in Atlanta issued a preliminary injunction blocking the cancellation.

The Honolulu Advertiser is owned by Gannett, parent company of USA TODAY.

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