Hawaii's Island Air to be sold

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The owners of Honolulu-based inter-island carrier Island Air will sell the airline to an undisclosed customer, in a move that the airline says will place the carrier in a stronger position to compete with dominant player Hawaiian Airlines.

The transaction is likely to be completed in the next six to eight weeks, says Michael Rodyniuk, who is executive vice president of Island Air's parent company Gavarnie Holding.

Island Air's new owner is a capital management firm based in the mainland USA, and has "some interests in aviation" even though the company does not own an airline, says Rodyniuk.

"This will position Island Air in a better position to compete with Hawaiian," he adds.

Hawaiian announced last year that it will launch a regional carrier with ATR 42s which will begin flights in mid-2013. Hawaiian has contracted Idaho-based regional carrier Empire Airlines to operate and maintain the aircraft.

Rodyniuk says the sale of Island Air is unrelated to Hawaiian's plans, and points out that the carrier is in a transitional phase as it adds ATR turboprops to its fleet. Gavarnie's owner, Charles Willis, also wants to concentrate on the company's other business interests, he adds.

The carrier was a Bombardier Dash 8-100 operator and still operates two of the aircraft type with a spare third aircraft. It added its first ATR 72 late last year and will receive a second later this month, says Rodyniuk. Island Air expects to operate seven ATR turboprops by end-2013 and will phase out the Dash 8s by June 2013.

"The costs of operating an ATR will be dramatically lower than a [Hawaiian] 717 and A321neo," he adds.

Gavarnie Holding acquired Island Air in 2004 from Aloha Airgroup.