Aloha Airlines, which has been transporting island-hoppers around the Hawaiian archipelago for more than 60 years, has completed its final passenger journey, brought low by the soaring cost of fuel and cut-throat competition.
Created in 1946 with a single war-surplus plane by Ruddy Tongg, one of Hawaii's richest men, the airline became a powerful symbol of Hawaii's integration with the US after it became the 50th state in 1959.
But last night, 19,000 employees faced an uncertain future after the company said it had failed to find a buyer that would lift it out of bankruptcy. Check-in staff and other workers wept as passengers at Honolulu's main airport expressed their dismay at the sudden decision to shut down the service.
The collapse leaves fewer options – and potentially higher ticket prices – for Hawaii's 1.2 million residents and the millions more who come to sample the islands' scenery and surfing.
The company has been teetering on the edge of survival for years and the emergence two years ago of an aggressive new competitor in the no-frills island-hopper Go! appeared to be the final straw. Last month it filed for bankruptcy protection for the second time since 2004, and hopes of a rescue quickly faded. "We simply ran out of time," said Aloha's president David Banmiller.
Aloha offered 700 flights a week between the Hawaiian islands, and 140 more to six cities on the US west coast. Last night, some passengers were pushed on to emergency flights from Aloha's partner, United. Others were being offered refunds or told to seek redress through the bankruptcy courts.