Following 60 years in business, Aloha Air will end passenger service today after seeing repeated losses once Mesa’s go! entered the market with fares that were cheap and completely unsustainable. Aloha saw competitors come and go over the years (Princeville Airways? Mid-Pacific Airlines?), but the combination of high fuel and $19 fares meant the end was inevitable. Sadly, it also means the end of one of the great throwback liveries, seen here.
On a personal note, Aloha’s demise is sad as well, as my first trip far from home was taken, in part on Aloha. At 14 I went to Kauai with my father, and we took the short hop from Honolulu to Lihue on Aloha. I had always been a nerd of the airline variety, and the idea of flying an airline that sounded as exotic as Aloha seemed inconceivable to me. When you’re 14, Hawaii seemed like the ends of the earth — when my father had gone there in prior years, his phone calls took on an other-worldly quality, with a 5 second delay between his speaking, and my hearing his voice. And when he’d call and say “good morning” even though it was 4 o’clock in the afternoon at our home in New Jersey, it seemed all the more a destination that was beyond my comprehension.
But my getting older, coupled with technology advances, makes Hawaii seem far, far closer. Everywhere is far, far closer than it is when you’re 14, and I think one of the reasons of my love of travel is chasing that feeling I had when that Continental 747 landed at LAX on the way to Honolulu, marking my first time in California and really, my first time outside of the northeast (and Florida, which is like the northeast, only warmer). After several hundred thousand miles and trips to obscure places for the sake of making a trip to an obscure place, it’s obvious that I’ll never re-capture the feeling of seeing Encounter at LAX for the first time.
Aloha represented part of that for me. A trip to a place that seemed in another world on an airline that only existed in that blip in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. That 17 minute trip set off a lifetime of travel that is one of my great passions. Aloha represented all of that for me. And I know that no 14 year old is getting jazzed up about his first trip on go!. I’m sure this is how many people felt about Pan Am, as it represented their first times seeing the world. And how much more painful it was for those folks as they saw the once-great livery plying the Trenton-Portsmouth route on the latest incarnation. Let’s hope Aloha can retire with some dignity intact.