Airlines’ failures give lift to SFO for Hawaiian voyages

The Bay Area’s busiest airport has already seen an influx of passengers after two airlines filed for bankruptcy this week.

ATA Airlines, once the nation’s 10th-largest air carrier, entered bankruptcy Thursday for the second time in just over three years. The surprising move came only days after Aloha Airlines went bankrupt, leaving Oakland International Airport with no direct flights to Hawaii and an increase in passengers searching for alternatives at San Francisco International Airport, airport officials said.

SFO has now become the main provider of nonstop flights to Hawaii in the Bay Area,said spokesman Mike McCarron, who added that passenger traffic from Oakland has already trickled into the hub in recent days.

Industry analyst Henry Harteveldt of Forrester Research confirmed that SFO will see a short-term increase in passengers, but the long-term changes still remain to be seen.

He said bigger airlines may step up by the summer season and offer nonstop flights to Hawaii on larger airplanes, but not by adding new flights because few have excess planes available.

United Airlines, which offers direct flights to Hawaii from SFO, booked passengers — including those left stranded by Aloha — on larger planes Tuesday to accommodate the influx of Hawaii-bound passengers. The airline, the busiest at SFO, also offered discounted one-way tickets to and from Hawaii for those who needed to get home.

Robin Urbanski, spokesman for United, said the airline is prepared to accept passengers stranded by ATA. Hawaiian Airlines, which also flies out of SFO, is adding a special nonstop flight between SFO and Honolulu departing today at 11 p.m.

Industry analysts said passengers should not expect to see any future bankruptcies from any major airlines.

“The majority of them stashed away money in case times get bad,” said Robert Mann, an analyst with R.W. Mann and Company.

ATA and Aloha offered a daily average of eight direct flights to Hawaii from Oakland, spokesman Robert Bernardo said. He said the airport is now looking to fill the void by either attracting new carriers or asking the existing airlines to enter the market.

“Our goal is to get that service back as soon as possible,” Bernardo said. “We never like losing passengers to other airports.”

svasilyuk@examiner.com

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