US regional carrier holding company Mesa Air Group has responded to an increasingly vicious campaign in Hawaii by the state's airline employees urging a boycott, with a fare promotion mimicking the anti-Mesa internet forum.

Mesa launched a new regional jet-equipped inter-island carrier Go! Airline in June to compete in the market against the main three scheduled carriers Aloha Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines and Island Air.  Following the launch, employees from the three existing carriers formed Hawaii's airline Employees Repelling [Mesa chairman and chief executive Jonathan] Ornstein (HERO) informal association with a stated aim of "Fighting against Mesa's destructive and unfair tactics in Hawaii".

HERO, which uses a corruption of Go!’s official website as its campaign home on the internet, has encouraged a boycott of the carrier, which it claims is seeking to use unfair pricing to force at least one of the existing carriers out of the market.

Go! this week hit back by launching a $19 inter-island fare promotion called Hero fares, which led to its busiest day of sales activity on Tuesday. Go! denies predatory pricing, saying: "It's quite obvious that our intention is to bring competition and low fares to Hawaii, not remove it. Competition is good for Hawaii and it's something that's been absent in the inter-island airline market."

Aloha and Hawaiian have matched previous promotions dropping fares to $39 and $29. The first casualty may be smaller nicher carreir Island Air, which announced on Tuesday that it will suspend its expansion plans and shelve options for Bombardier Dash-8 Q400s to replace its existing turboprops. The company issued a statement blaming Go! for market conditions that impelled it to rein in its own effort to expand service.


However, Aloha said this week that it will no longer endorse Go! tickets in the event of cancellation of services as a response to the fare structure, which its chief executive David Banmiller claims is a part of a plan "to drive out hometown airlines and then raise prices for its own gain."

In defiance, Mesa hit back by signing a memorandum of understanding to code share with Mokulele Airlines, a charter carrier that has been granted rights to operate soon-to-be-acquired Cessna Grand Caravan 208Bs on scheduled services. Under the accord, Mokuele will operate as the newly created GoExpress from Honolulu to the smaller islands of Kapalua, Lanai and Molokai. It will also operate non-stop services between some of Hawaii’s islands.

“I am excited by the great opportunities this partnership will bring to the smaller communities of Hawaii,” says Mokulele chief executive Bill Boyer.  GoExpress flights are expected to begin in December.