Hawaii’s Island Air closed the sale of the airline in late February to a newly formed holding company owned by the billionaire co-founder and CEO of Oracle, Larry Ellison. Island Air said it plans no staff changes and will continue its operations as usual while it maps out routes, airplane acquisitions and services.
The sale follows Island Air’s struggles with its planned transition to an ATR fleet from de Havilland Canada Dash 8-100s, two of which it still operates. It finally deployed its first former American Eagle ATR 72-212 on February 27, some four months later than originally expected, on a suspended route between Honolulu and Kahului on the island of Maui. Apart from a lease deal with Nordic Aviation Capital involving a pair of ATR 72s, Island Air signed a letter of intent last year covering five ATR 42-320s with Chicago’s Aerway Leasing. It retired two of the four Dash 8s it once operated after they reached the end of their 80,000-cycle service lives. It plans to replace the final two with ATRs some time this year.
Ellison’s interest in Island Air relates to his plans for eco-friendly development on the island of Lanai, 98 percent of which he personally owns. Ellison bought the real estate along with its two resorts and golf club in June from fellow billionaire David Murdock.
“This is another major investment and commitment to Hawaii,” said Paul Marinelli, vice president of Lawrence Investments, another company owned by Ellison. “We understand the critical importance of transportation in an island state and we will ensure that Island Air strengthens its role, capacity and service to the people of Hawaii.”