Hawaiian Airlines Sues Mesa

Hawaiian Airlines Inc. is seeking a court order to block Mesa Air Group Inc.'s entry into the island market for two years, alleging that the new airline illegally used confidential business data from Hawaiian's bankruptcy.

In a complaint filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Hawaiian said the information was key in Mesa's decision to begin interisland services in April or May.

In September, Mesa announced plans to offer one-way fares as low $43 to compete directly against Hawaiian and Aloha Airlines by offering flights between islands.

The lawsuit filed Monday seeks unspecified monetary damages and an injunction that would prevent Mesa from offering Hawaii flights for at least two years.

Mesa did not return telephone and e-mail messages seeking comment Tuesday. Phoenix-based Mesa was one of several potential bidders to acquire Hawaiian during its recent bankruptcy reorganization.

Hawaiian says Mesa was given access to more than 2,000 pages of detailed information about Hawaiian's business strategy, pricing structure, passenger counts and quarterly projections through the end of 2007.

"It is an incalculable advantage," said Mark Dunkerley, president and CEO of Hawaiian Airlines.

"We have no problem with competition. We are happy to take on competitors," Dunkerley added. "But it's a different story when you are playing poker with somebody who's already seen your cards."

He said Mesa violated a confidentiality agreement it signed to gain access to the information. The agreement, dated April 1, 2004, said the information "shall not be used to obtain any competitive advantage" for a period of two years.

Mesa CEO Jonathan Ornstein told The Honolulu Advertiser for a story in Tuesday's editions that Hawaiian's suit indicates "how afraid of us they really are."

"The thrust of this is to prevent competition," he said.

Hawaiian, which filed for bankruptcy in 2003, emerged from Chapter 11 reorganization last June under the ownership of Ranch Capital LLC.

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On the net:

Hawaiian Airlines: http://www.hawaiianair.com

Mesa Air Group Inc.: http://www.mesa-air.com/default.asp


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