It turns out, running your own airline isn’t as easy as it seems, even for a sharp billionaire businessman like Larry Ellison.
Two years after buying Island Air to help people fly from the other islands to Lanai (the Hawaiian resort island that Ellison owns), he and his peeps are looking to sell, Rick Daysog at Hawaii News Now reports.
Ellison, who made his money as a tech tycoon cofounding software giant Oracle, bought the Hawaiian island of Lanai in 2012. He wanted to turn it into a model for sustainable living, agriculture and eco-friendly resort vacationing, he said at the time.
He bought Island Air, the No. 2 inter-island carrier, to help people fly to Lanaii from the other islands.
One problem: it wound up competing with the dominant airline in the state, Hawaiian Airlines, and the inter-island airline it launched in 2014 called Ohana, reports the Pacific News Business Journal.
Things weren’t going so well for Island Air. Ellison’s airline lost $21.78 million in 2014, reports the Journal. In May 2015, it laid off about 20 per cent of its employees, shuttered operations on Kauai and canceled its order of two new aircraft, the Journal also reports. Right now, it only brings people to Lanai City from Honolulu and from Kahului, Maui. And it canceled plans to build a new terminal at Honolulu International Airport
On top of that, the airline uses 64-seat turboprops, with tight spaces for carry-on luggage. The new Ohana airline is flying larger ATR 42-500 twin turboprops. And its advertising is a direct dig at Ellison’s airline, “It’s no tidepool-jumper: it seats nearly 50 people comfortably, with surprisingly wide seats and roomy overhead bins.”
So Ellison is in talks to sell the airline and has reportedly already turned down one offer by former Hawaiian airline CEO Bruce Nobles and former Island Air CEO Paul Casey.