Saturday, April 5, 2008

Superferry returns to service Monday

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The Honolulu Advertiser     April 4, 2008

Superferry returns to service Monday

By Christie Wilson,   Advertiser Neighbor Island Editor

Hawaii Superferry will return to service Monday,
soothing some concerns about interisland travel
options in the wake of this week's shutdown of
Aloha Airlines passenger flights.

However, Superferry president and CEO John
Garibaldi yesterday said the sooner-than-expected
return of the company's high-speed catamaran
Alakai is not related to the Aloha situation.

The vessel, capable of carrying 866 people and
282 cars, was in drydock for repairs for six
weeks and wasn't expected to resume
Honolulu-to-Maui voyages until April 23. It is
now back at Pier 19 at Honolulu Harbor and ready
to sail, Garibaldi said.

"She came out of drydock a week ago, so our
intent, with our $85 million investment, was to
get her back working as quickly as possible.
Aloha had nothing to do with our return to
" he said.

"With all the trials and tribulations over the
past six or seven weeks, we're eager to get back
in service."

More than half the company's 300 employees were
furloughed while the Alakai was in drydock, and
most will be back on the job by Monday, Garibaldi said.

Hawaii Superferry has extended its promotional
one-way fares of $39 per passenger and $55 per
vehicle for travel through June 5, with the fuel
surcharge waived.

The Alakai is scheduled to depart Honolulu at
6:30 a.m. daily and arrive at Kahului Harbor at
10:15 a.m. The return voyage is scheduled to
depart Maui at 11:15 a.m. and arrive in Honolulu at 2:15 p.m.

Before going into drydock, Superferry was              NOTE:   It was actually going at about
carrying only a third of its anticipated passenger    16% of capacity.  How can 
load. The ferry also suffered from the                            HSF even think that there will be enough
effects of rough winter seas that resulted in 14                traffic for two voysges each day to Maui?
days of cancellations since its relaunch Dec. 13.

Although the Aloha shutdown caused upheaval for
the air carrier's passengers and employees, the
situation could prove advantageous to the new
interisland ferry as more people appreciate the
need for a transportation alternative. A
predicted rise in interisland airfares also could
work to Superferry's benefit.

At the time the company established its pricing
in 2004, roundtrip interisland airfares were
close to $200 and higher. By comparison, a
roundtrip on the Superferry was priced at about
$100, plus a fuel surcharge.

When newcomer go! airlines sparked a fare war
with Hawaiian Airlines and Aloha in 2006, tickets
dropped to as low as $19 - even $1 in rare
promotions. The cheapest airfares remained at
about $40 to $50 up until the end of Aloha
passenger service on Tuesday.

Garibaldi said that when the high-speed ferry was
under development as a business concept from 2002
to 2005, the state had two principal interisland
air carriers, and Superferry's objective was "to
provide another option for people to travel in a
different mode that was complementary to the

"The Superferry was always a very, very sound
option for people. It's just unfortunate we got
into somewhat of an unrealistic marketplace that
didn't reflect the reality of the situation. If
you have an interisland airline losing tens and
hundreds of millions of dollars in a short time,
it's something that's not sustainable," he said.

A former executive with both Aloha and Hawaiian,
Garibaldi said he was saddened but not surprised
by the past week's events.

"These are difficult times with the credit
market, and Hawai'i historically has been able to
have only two airlines. When you have a third,
something is going to happen eventually. ... It's
unfortunate that it took a toll the way it did,"
he said.

Superferry is still hoping to start a second
daily roundtrip to Maui by late spring,
said, and eventually return to Kaua'i,
opposition to the ferry has been most passionate.

"People have seen ideas about our service
clarified, and there's been a real benefit coming
out of the oversight task force" set up by a new
law allowing the ferry to operate while an
environmental review is conducted.

"We're confident that over time, we'll be serving all four islands."

Superferry is planning to begin service to
Kawaihae on the Big Island when a second ship
goes into service next year.