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WHY NO SOUTHWEST TO HAWAII?

Bill
Employee
Employee
See below for April 10 update  Everyone at Southwest Airlines was saddened by the sudden termination of service by our codeshare partner, ATA Airlines. Setting aside the business relationship for just a second, we appreciate the hard work of our colleagues at ATA, and wish them nothing but the best in the future. However, I thought I should post a quick blog about a question that's come up MANY times since ATA ceased operating–why didn't Southwest buy (or take over) ATA's Hawaii routes? As much as all of us at Southwest would love to have done it, there are a few absolute brick walls that prevent us from just jumping in on short notice to fill the void left by ATA. The simple answer: we can't. First, there is no such thing as "buying" a domestic US route these days. Deregulation of the industry the late 1970's meant that any airline could fly between any two points in the US if they wanted to. Some international route authories are still tightly controlled, but mainland–Hawaii service is considered domestic. So there was nothing to buy. Okay--on to the brick walls. Brick wall #1–Southwest's aircraft are not ready to quickly start flying to Hawaii. Twin-engine aircraft require extra equipment, and their flight and ground crews extra training, in order to fly longhaul flights over vast stretches of open water. ATA's Boeing 737's and employees (as were those of Aloha Airlines) were already fully certified in that process. Southwest's haven't been, because we have never needed it. Brick wall #2–resource availability. Southwest's low costs are predicated on efficiency and part of that efficiency means we don't have spare, unused aircraft and Crews simply sitting around waiting for something to do. If we were to undertake a large-scale new operation on very short notice (and simply duplicating ATA's Hawaii operations would require nearly a dozen aircraft and the opening of five new cities), we would have to cancel existing service to free up aircraft, reaccommodate Customers booked on those flights, and reroute possibly hundreds of Crew pairings–all at a huge cost to both Customers and Crews. In these days of $100 a barrel oil, that is a cost Southwest just couldn't justify. Going further...in response to these brick walls, many have asked why Southwest just didn't buy ATA's aircraft (already certificated and in use for Hawaiian operations) and use those aircraft to fly ATA's former routes. Again, it's a lot easier said than done. First, the certification for longhaul overwater operations is specific to the airline, not the aircraft–so even if we had slapped a Southwest logo on ATA's aircraft, we still couldn't immediately begin boarding our first departure to Honolulu. And while ATA flew 737's (among other aircraft types) to Hawaii, they were the 737-800, a different type of 737 than Southwest's (we fly -300's, -500's, and -700's). Introducing a new aircraft type into an airline's fleet is an expensive, time-consuming, and resource-intensive activity, and our current focus and efforts are better spent on improving the efficiency and performance of our existing, mainland-based network. Again, we are enormously disappointed at this turn of events–but I hope this answers some of your questions as to why Southwest isn't able to simply swoop in and take up the Hawaiian "slack"....and we sincerely wish all of ATA's employees the best of luck. Thanks for reading "Nuts About Southwest!" Update as of April 10, 2008:  Today, Southwest began contacting Customers who purchased Southwest tickets operated by ATA Airlines and were scheduled to commence travel after from May 3rd to process full refunds of their tickets. While we have successfully reaccommodated the majority of our Customers traveling between now and May 3, we have also realized that the only realistic option as we go forward into peak travel season is to give full refunds on existing purchased tickets.  As we examined reaccomodation options beyond May 3, it became readily apparent that, given the significant reduction in capacity between the Mainland and Hawaii after the discontinuation of both ATA and Aloha Airlines, there were simply too few seats left available to offer all of our Customers suitable rebooking options. Why was May 3 picked as the date?  Well, the simple answer is that it gave Southwest 30 days to handle Customers that were most immediately impacted--to contact them, to reaccomodate them, and to get them on their way.  Looking past that date, though, it was pretty clear after a week of study that the options past May 3 were not greater--they were fewer. I can honestly say that everyone at Southwest is heartsick at this outcome, just as we are enormously disappointed at the sudden demise of ATA.  However, we *do* think it is better to refund existing, paid Southwest tickets on ATA flights, rather than to keep you waiting on options that would most probably be inferior to the great service that we had planned to provide for you. To answer a harder question.....did we look at other options?  Of course.  Read the blog post above for a detailed explanation of why Southwest can't just start immediate service to Hawaii. Further, when the numbers of people booked on each, individual day were studied, there just weren't enough people on each single day to funnel them through a logical "collection" point, given their existing reservations, and arrange charter service even in the short term.  And to make that option even more difficult, the list of available charter options has been significantly reduced by the current industry crisis.  So, that just wasn't an option.  Nor was it an acceptable option to keep you on pins and needles.....thus this decision. Again, those Customers who purchased Southwest tickets operated by ATA Airlines and were scheduled to begin their trips between May 4 and August 22,2008, will receive a full refund delivered to your original form of payment and a Southwest LUV voucher as a gesture of goodwill for this inconvenience....but I thought it was important to update the blog with the "breaking" news.   We had hoped to build on our relationship with ATA, but they decided they couldn't continue in the current business climate.   We have done what we hope is best for everyone. All of us here at the Southwest Airlines are very saddened by this.  We hope you will understand that ATA's discontinuation of scheduled service was just flat beyond our control...and that we are doing what we can to provide the best Service to our wonderful Customers.    Bill
156 Comments
Martin_Hengst
Not applicable
I was saddened to see the demise of ATA. I had four "Comp" tickets on ATA booked to Maui that are now worthless. Southwest saved the day. I had enough RR flights to book a family trip to Orlando instead. My timeshare (Westin) accommodated the change in plans with no fee and I am going to Disney world instead. ATA took me to Hawaii too many times to remember and I look forward to Southwest investing in the Hawaii market. We need to be patient, it will happen. Market forces drive Southwest and I am positive they are looking at this long term.
Corinne
Not applicable
As upset as I initially was, I realize Southwest had the best intentions when they promised to reaccommodate everyone. Unfortunately that can-do spirit made a bad situation even worse for a lot of us. Bill, I really appreciate that you are here on behalf of Southwest, reiterating your sympathy and regret over this. You seem very sincere and I thank you for the opportunity to vent. (At the same time, I do hope our feedback is reported so that this kind of thing might be avoided in the future.)
Anonymous4371
Not applicable
Chris, Corinne, EQUALLY DISMAYED, et al, I just re-read Southwest's original press release concerning the ATA situation. It said ... "Upon hearing ATA's decision, Southwest immediately implemented a plan to take care of all Customers who purchased a ticket on Southwest and are scheduled to travel on ATA service by rebooking them on a new itinerary closest to their previous travel plans, or offering a full refund for any unused portion of a ticket." The possibility of a refund being the final remedy for some people was always there, and the press release never used the words "promise," "guarantee," and "unequivocally" in respect to the rebooking option. If some individuals implied otherwise, or if you inferred otherwise, I am sure it was because everyone wanted very much for that to be the case. It was certainly not because anyone was trying to "pull a fast one." No one wanted to disappoint your friends and families (who in some cases quite possibly might have been their own friends and families). However, it is possible to make the case that you (the people who booked ATA through Southwest) are the lucky ones. If you had booked your trip to Hawaii through ATA, you would have the following options: - No reaccommodation - No refund - No travel voucher - No customer service phone number to call - No web site on which to vent your frustration Of course, the really UNlucky ones in this situation are the ATA employees who woke up a few days ago with no jobs in a sluggish economy and in an industry that is not hiring. It's a bad situation. I know that many people worked very hard for a different result. The final result was not what anyone wanted, but rebooking of everyone was impossible. The necessary number of seats to Hawaii simply do not exist. Having your refund a few days earlier would not have changed that fact. Your frustration is understandable. Some of your comments are not. Have a nice day and try to show compassion for others. ("Others" includes the people at Southwest who tried very hard NOT to disappoint you.)
Anonymous4063
Not applicable
Hey DISMAYED Turn your caps lock off. I completely skipped over your post because I hate it when people type in all caps! It shows that you don't know how to use proper capitalization. It makes sentences difficult to read as it is an uncommon way of typing.
Donnie
Not applicable
Bill, My turn to vent. Seems like the next airline to go bankrupt is going to be Southwest. You have frustrated people out here for good reason. Like any good business, well done is better than well said. You keep the promises you make. Customer service is number one!! Seems like customer service in non existent anymore. Oral contracts are as good as written ones. Seems to me, in this blog, you guys at Southwest made a big boo boo with telling us in writing and hundreds of customers relating here in this blog that they were orally promised a service. That service was to reaccommodate our flights. We all took Southwest at their good word. Yeah, it was never Southwest's fault. But when Southwest said don't worry, we will accommodate all that want that option, and to call us back if you have a later flight, because we are trying to help those more pressing, we did. When SW reneged on that promise, it became Southwest's problem. Lawsuits, oh yeah. Southwest will be the next bankrupt airline. But wait, here is my alternative. If nothing else can be done, let us use those vouchers as cash rebates, so we can defer the cost of the other exorbitant flights as much as possible, that you tell us we have to do. If the rest of you frustrated customers feel that would help, send your posts now. Let's get this thing started!!!!
Anonymous29
Not applicable
MY DEAR EQUALLY DISMAYED......FIRST OFF, SYMPATHY IS THERE FOR MANY, THAT ISN'T THE ISSUE AT ALL.....JERILYN'S EMAIL WAS MOST TOUCHING AND I AGREE WITH EVERYONE WHO IS DISAPPOINTED BY THIS UPROAR, THANKS AGAIN TO ATA........THE ISSUE IS THE BLAME GAME TO SOUTHWEST..........SOUTHWEST DIDN'T HAVE TO FIND A PARTNER TO GIVE MANY THE PRIVILEGE OF FLYING TO HAWAII FOR CHEAP, BUT THEY FOUND THIS TOOL FOR ALL OF US TO USE, AND BECAUSE IT WENT BELLY UP FOLKS ARE BLAMING SOUTHWEST.......THEY SHOULD BE BLAMING ATA......MANY FOLKS WERE USING THEIR RR REWARDS FOR THE TRIP, BUT HOW ABOUT THOSE WHO PAID "CASH" TO ATA DIRECTLY? THEY ARE OUT COMPLETELY.... AT LEAST SW HAS THE DECENCY TO REFUND WHATEVER AND "MORE".......FYI, I HAVE MY OWN ISSUES ABOUT OUR HAWAII TRIP, BUT CHOSE NOT TO AIR IT BECAUSE ITS OF NO VALUE TO ANYONE ELSE BUT US. NOW THAT ALL KNOWS WHAT THEY ARE FACED WITH, YOU HAVE TO ADJUST AND MAKE CHANGES......."YOU ARE ASSUMING THAT I HAVE THE MEANS AND ARE HANDLING THIS FLAWLESSLY BECAUSE I'M SUCH A GENIUS " PER YOUR WORDING..BEING UPSET IS EXPECTED, BUT BLAMING SWA FOR SOMETHING THAT WAS TOTALLY OUT OF THEIR CONTROL IS JUST PLAIN "WRONG"..........LIKE I SAID "NO ONE EVER SAID LIFE WAS FAIR"...NO ONE SEEMS TO BE SENSITIVE TO THE FACT THAT MANY LOST THEIR JOBS BECAUSE OF ATA, AND ALL PEOPLE CARE ABOUT IS WANTING TO GET TO HAWAII.......HOW ABOUT THE FAMILIES THAT DON'T KNOW HOW THEY ARE GOING TO PAY THEIR HOUSE PAYMENT FOR THIS MONTH?????? FOOD FOR THEIR FAMILY????????SENSITIVITY??? I DIDN'T HERE YOUR COMPASSION HERE.... I DIDN'T HEAR YOU SPEAK ABOUT THESE FORMER WORKERS...........WELL, WE ALL HAVE CHOICES AND THERE ARE OTHER AIRLINES THAT WILL GLADLY GET YOU THERE, THE DIFFERENCE IS YOU WILL HAVE TO PAY THE PIPER OR MAKE OTHER PLANS......IT ISN'T FAIR I KNOW.....EXSPECTING SWA TO MAKE IT WORK FOR OVER 20,000 WHO HAD PLANS TO HAWAII WILL ONLY ENHANCE THE CHANCES OF SWA GOING BELLY UP, OR RAISING THERE PRICES SO HIGH THAT NO ONE WILL BE GIVEN THE PRIVILEGE TO FLY FOR FUN...... EVERYONE BEING UPSET ISN'T THE ISSUE, ALL THESE SWA WORKERS HAVE HAD THERE CUP RUNNETH OVER ALSO WITH YELLS, NASTY WORDS, HANG UPS ETC., BUT CALLING THEM LIARS CONTINUALLY DURING AN EVENT THEY HAD NO CONTROL OF, AND "UP FRONT" DID MEAN WHAT THEY SAID ABOUT TRYING TO ACCOMODATE EVERYONE, WAS OVERWHELMING FOR THEM ALSO.....BUT, REFUNDING AND GIVING THE ADDITONAL 200 DOLLAR VOUCHER IS ALSO "AN ACCOMODATION"....AND THE BEST THEY COULD DO... SO "EQUALLY DISMAYED", "you have a wonderful day also" AND TRY TO REALIZE THE DIFFERENCE IN BEING "UPSET" AND DOWN RIGHT "NASTY" TO A COMPANY THAT HAD TRIED TO TAKE THE RESPONSIBLITY OF ANOTHER AIRLINES FAILURES, TRIED TO KEEP THE PROMISES TO ITS FLYERS THAT ATA FAILED TO DO, AND STILL SEEMS TO GET KICKED IN THE FACE, OVER AND OVER.......THOSE WHO BOUGHT TKTS DIRECTLY FROM ATA ARE OUT OF LUCK ...WHERE IS YOUR COMPASSION FOR ALL THESE FOLKS WHO HAVE LOST THERE MONEY AND WILL NEVER SEE A DIME OF IT???????...AT THIS MOMENT AM I GLAD I'M AN ATA CUSTOMER OR A SWA CUSTOMER?????????? NO BRAINER! again, have a great weekend...*...(typed especially for you so no one else will see....)
Anonymous29
Not applicable
Steve, I just saw your blog about my typing in caps, and unfortunately I just sent out another blog in caps. I just love to type in caps, always have and no one has ever bought this to my attention..Thank you for your comment/criticism and I'll be sure not to type in CAPS oops caps, on this blog again...Have a good day..!
EQUALLY_DISMAYE
Not applicable
Dear DISMAYED, I appreciate your input but I think you've misunderstood my point. I am certainly not "blaming" Southwest for ATA's demise, nor did I expect Southwest to fix it. However, they promised they would rebook me at their cost and I took them at their word, instead of rebooking elsewhere as I had planned to do. So what I DID expect from Southwest was for them to follow through on what they told me they would do. Please understand they didn't say, "We'll try to rebook you," "We may be able to rebook you," they said, "We WILL rebook you" and stated it was only a matter of time. What part of this or my previous post is "nasty" toward Southwest?? Your own post was downright hostile toward complete strangers who are only here to vent frustration at a very disappointing turn of events. It seems to me you may be more closely affiliated with Southwest than you let on... In any case, you're absolutely right that there are situations more dire than mine or Jerilyn's or even the unfortunate ATA employees who are out of work because of this. While I believe compassion for ALL is extremely important, you can be compassionate and still retain your right to express frustration when you feel you've been wronged. Thanks for reading and I really do hope you have a nice day.
Ernie_OBryan
Not applicable
I know that my choice priveledge points can be converted to rapid reward tickets or ailine mileage why can't southwest for those of us who have been affected make a way to reverse this process so we can convert our rapid reward tickets to airline mileage and hence find other carriers to fly us to Hawaii like Alaska Airlines?
Andy
Not applicable
A ticket is a ticket no matter what a customer used to pay for it, whether its cold hard cash, or frequent flyer credits they earned for being a loyal customer. Southwest knew the risks of entering into codeshare agreements. If Southwest sells you a ticket with a Southwest flight number, that becomes a contract that Southwest is legally and morally obligated to fulfill, no matter what name is actually on the plane that takes you to that destination. A contractor may subcontract out some work, but the general contractor is still ultimately responsible for the quality of work. This is no different than codeshare partnerships. Sure, ATA went out of business, but those are the risks when entering into partnerships and passing off your customers to somebody else. You are left holding the bag. It is still fully within Southwest's power to fulfill their contract. Plenty of seats remain to Hawaii on other airlines. They may not be available for the price Southwests wants, but if Southwest actually cares about their customers, they'd do whatever is necessary to make sure people's wedding plans, anniversaries, and dream vacations aren't ruined. Southwest has transformed itself into just another typical beancounter company. Southwest places a value on their most dedicated customers (and their dream weddings), those that fly Southwest almost exclusively, and those that use their co-branded credit card, at less than a $700 ticket to Hawaii. Pathetic. The LUV is gone.
Joe_W2
Not applicable
Andy, Actually, I have to take the side of SW on this one. In your example of a general contractor being responsible to the owner for the subcontractors work is not correct. In fact, the law and I believe in the case of southwest and ATA's agreement is that if the general contractor goes belly up in a construction project, the owner is responsible for the subcontractors fees, no matter how much the GC has paid the sub. This is clearly stated in all lien laws across the country. This actually occurs quite often, as owners have been ordered to pay double on construction work. Protect yourselves everyone, this is what deregulation and capitalism gets us. Borrow and Borrow until the well is dry, then just throw in the towel and your debts are cleared. Sounds like a complicated pyramid scheme to me. Not as bad as Bear Sterns or LBOs out there that are doing the same thing, but worst. Joe W
Pam4
Not applicable
Bill, I am not able to find out the amount of the voucher and if there is one for each person that was traveling or one per reservation. I have seen this question asked, but can't find your response to it. I am very happy that I am receiving a refund and voucher. I was lucky and immediately made my own new reservation on the day I found out about ATA. I just had a feeling that SWA was not going to be able accommodate all travelers to HI because they don't have planes that normally fly there. Thanks SW for the refund and voucher!!!
Anonymous4064
Not applicable
Why are you people blaming Southwest for ATA's failure. Bill has explained it isn't Southwest's fault that ATA went bankrupt. Yes, they had a codeshare with ATA but that doesn't mean that Southwest had anything to do with poor ticket sales at ATA or the freight contract they lost. What part of that don't you people understand? Are you the same people that blame the grocery store for the rising price of food because gas prices are going up? It isn't the grocery stores fault nor is ATA's failure Southwest's fault.
_JAY_FROM_TEXAS
Not applicable
You know what Bill? You are Ã
Bill
Employee
Employee
JAY, I understand your frustration.....and if you don't believe me, then okay, that is your decision. I can honestly say I've tried to SHOOT TOTALLY STRAIGHT for everyone reading this blog. And who is this "Jim" you're wanting to "fess up"?? Bill
bhurst
New Arrival
JAY FROM TEXAS, It seems to me the reason so many people's plans have been disrupted ... wonderful plans that they had put much time, energy, and hope into ... is that ATA abruptly and without warning ceased operations. Southwest tried to do the impossible to address this problem, which was not of our own making, and perhaps we should be blamed for that. That is up to you I suppose. HOWEVER, I can assure you that your implication that Bill Owen's compassion is less than 100% genuine (for you and others whose dreams have been dashed) is WRONG! Bill is widely known for his compassion (and for a squirrel in his freezer, but that's another story) and he is the creator of a semi-official Southwest program called Random Acts of Kindness, which is exactly what it sounds like. I sincerely hope things work out for you and your kids. Bob
Anonymous689
Not applicable
I am in Southwest Reservations and I would like to comment on the dialogue that is going on. We understand, believe me, the frustrations and the concerns of all of you. We have strived to do the best that we can with the situtation at hand. We have no idea that ATA was going to close there doors until we walked into work the day they went down. It is devestation to say the least. My family was even going to book on ATA to go down to Hawaii with Rapid Reward credits, but like all of you other Rapid Reward members, we can not do it either. And it is extremely sad. But I want to comment that it is not just Southwest that is suffering. I am hearbroken for the thousands of ATA employees. I have had the chance to talk a ATA pilot who went to work and found the doors locked and a note on the door saying they did not have a job anymore. In todays economy that is one scary thing. The bottom line is that we understand and we know what you are all going through. Never doubt the concern of all us at Southwest Airlines. You guys make us who we are and we don't want to lose you.
Jerilyn
Not applicable
Cassie - I appreciate your comment. Same for Bob...and Bill. I am not a cold, callous person, and never have been accused of being so - - in fact, I have never uttered one rude word or launched a personal attack against a Southwest Employee in the decades that I have flown the airline. Yes, I said decades. My first 'real' Southwest flight was when I was in diapers. For those of your scoring at home...I am 32 years of age. According to my mom, I got my 'Southwest Wings' while still in utero. As a wee child traveling alone, I was buckled into my seat by caring, compassionate flight attendants and walked off the plane to greet relatives while my hand was held by one of your staff. 'Flight' has always been synonymous with 'Southwest' to me. I have flown the skies between Dallas and Houston, Midland and Dallas, Dallas and San Antonio, Dallas and Harlingen, Dallas and Corpus Christi, Midland to Houston, Midland to Las Vegas...the list goes on and on and on. I can safely say that I have flown to/from just about Texas destination you serve....and a few outside of this great state. Why? Because Southwest was raised 'right'...the same way I was raised. I gave my hard-earned money to your airline above all others...because I believed in your principles and the way you treated me. I can't begin to tell the stories of the flights I have been on....winning bottles of champagne in a 'trivia contest' on the way back from Vegas (thanks to some quickly formed alliances with fellow passengers)...being serenaded by quirky attendants and even singing in return...conspiring with fellow passengers to write hilarious messages to the pilots on cocktail napkins ( the flight attendants were also co-conspirators) one night during a HORRIFIC storm (Dear Captain, Keep the shiny side up and the rubber side down, please. Love, the nauseous passengers in the back). I have almost 30 years of memories of flying Southwest. (I would say MORE than 30 years of memories...but the time between gestating and about...oh, age four are a little bit hazy.) That's probably why I am most heartbroken. Because this was the first time I ever felt like a 'confirmation number'. The first time I ever felt like a fare. The first time I ever felt like a bottom-line decision. I don't blame Bill...I don't blame Bob...I don't blame Cassie. You do your jobs...you do it well. Sadly, somewhere...someone took a look at the numbers and made a decision. A decision that YOU have to live with...that you have to explain, defend, spin....however you want to take it. No, you're not happy. I'm not happy. And, according to what we have been told...the (former) holders of those 20,000 flights aren't happy, either. No, it's not fair. It's not fair that it happened...or that we were told one thing...then saw another thing occur. It's not fair that you have to defend Southwest...a company you love so much that you have committed to sharing the 'spirit' every day as a part of your career. Even in my disappointment, I understand. It doesn't make it hurt any less...but I understand. Does that mean I will fly Southwest again myself? I don't know. It will take a lot to win back decades of my loyalty...if it does occur. That doesn't mean I HATE Southwest. I just don't TRUST them any longer. It's been said more than once in these comments that the true complaint is that a number of people held off on trying to rebook because of the assurances from Southwest. If they had been booked on any other carrier...they wouldn't have taken that carrier's word for it. I know that if any OTHER airline had made the same assurances, I would have been borrowing money, raiding my 401k or knocking down a convenience store or two to book elsewhere. (Okay, maybe I am kidding about the 401k.) But, Southwest's word meant something to all of us. And here's a lesson for 'next time'. Say "We don't know." Admit that you aren't SURE if you can accomodate everyone, but that you are working 'round the clock to do so. Say that you have every intention of making it right for the travelers, but that you cannot offer any guarantee or assurance...and allow them to cancel and offer timely refunds. (Another passenger on the same ill-fated flight to Hawaii was told that if he hadn't called in to actually cancel his flight for a refund that it would be approximately 60 days before Southwest returned his money. Whether that's accurate or not...that is what he was told when calling.) Take a cue from Karen, the absolutely WONDERFUL woman I spoke to on Thursday, April 10, 2008. I read the email notifying all of us of the cancelations...and I called her to simply get more information. She was the epitome of 'professionalism'. Extremely kind, understanding...everything I could want in a customer service capacity from Southwest. She was VERY upfront and communicative. No 'spin'. She admitted that she had just gotten the cancelation information, and even asked for a moment a couple of times during our conversation so that she could review the pertinent information before answering specific questions. AND....when there was a SHRED of doubt...that lovely lady uttered the most HONEST and beautiful words on earth, "I don't know." She was honest with me...not knowing if I would accept the honesty or would turn into a vicious harpy once I heard those words. (See above, never uttered rude word or personally attacked a Southwest employee). Karen gave it to me straight, even at the risk of upsetting me (or the countless OTHER individuals she had to deal with that day). I hope that SOMEONE at Southwest lets her know that she is the ONLY reason that I would EVER consider returning to the airline..if I do. So, Bill....do me a favor. Pass this along to Karen. Find her. I don't have her last name...but I talked to her on Thursday, April 10, 2008...sometime between 1pm and 3pm. (I'm sorry I can't remember the exact time, I was too busy wiping away tears of absolute frustration to check the clock.) All I know was that this 'Karen' was working her last scheduled day of the week (according to her comment that this was her 'Friday')...and that she was the most transparent, honest and most believable part of this whole nightmare....not for what she told me...but for what she admitted she COULDN'T tell me....because she did not know. On top of that, she was kind, arranged to cancel my bookings for me..ensure the Rapid Reward credits were returned to my friends' accounts, made sure I got the email cancelation of the flights. She was the one silver lining in the dark cloud that descended that day. I want her to know how much I appreciated her. (I would be grateful if you did this, I am an HR Manager here in Dallas....I believe in recognizing employees for doing the 'right' thing...even when they risk a negative reaction. It's especially important in Karen's case...as she most likely dealt with furious individuals all day and would otherwise never realize that her kindness to me made a difference.) And, my personal recommendation would be to give her a nice bonus. Equal to what I've spent over the last 24 months in flight at Southwest. Like I said, Karen is the only reason I would ever consider coming back to the airline. THAT woman is the 'spirit' of Southwest. As an aside...I am still going to Hawaii...only because of my duty to the bride. A friend booked me today on American using his AA miles (since I am still waiting for my refund from Southwest) and I am going to reimburse him. What's the over/under on those flights? Should I start praying now? :) Jerilyn
Bill
Employee
Employee
Jerilyn, Your post kind of reminds of a line from "The Wizard Of Oz," as Dorothy is saying goodbye to the TIn Man, the Lion, and as she gets to the Scarecrow she says "I think I'm going to miss you most of all...." Your loyalty--going back to both Southwest's *and* your earliest days--is so important to us. And it's not just that we've disappointed you--as an airline, we are at the mercy of weather, government, former codeshare partners, and heaven knows what else, so we realize we disappoint Customers daily--we just try to make it up to them. But losing your *trust* stings, deeply and badly. It shouldn't be a big surprise that this has been a sharp and painful wake-up call for Southwest. I think I can definitively promise that if, God Forbid, this should happen again, our communication --all of it--will be different, and that we won't (as you wisely point out) be afraid to say "we don't know" and ask for paitience while we figure things out. For what it's worth, I personally greatly appreciate your openness and candor in your blog comments. I hope we can retain your business; I pray we can regain your trust. In the meantime.....I want to make sure Karen in Reservations gets not only your commendation--but a second one, from me as well, for making me proud to be her colleague. I will be sending you an email from my office email addy; if you could send me either your old confirmation number, or just the flights, dates, and last name on your record, I will take care of both commendation letters, and email you both letters. You're also very right--people like Bob, and Karen, and Cassie, and certainly me, love our Company and take this stuff personally. i wouldn't be sitting cross-legged on my bed at nearly midnight on a Wednesday night responding if I didn't. Again....I hope you let us try to rebuild the trust. I hope you have a fantastic time in Hawaii--it is one of my favorite places on earth. I hope AA does you right, and does *us* proud.....and that we have the chance to do it again, and start that baby-steps rebuilding process, soon. Aloha, Jerilyn.....mahalo nui loa for your business in the past--and hopefully we (all 33,000 of us) can serve you again. Bill
Ernie_OBryan
Not applicable
Bill, I hope this doesn't stop Southwest from trying to find another company to partner with as soon as possible that flies to Hawaii. We are upset but if something happened with Southwest where we could still use these tickets to go to Hawaii in the future in my case I would be greatful. I hope the company sees how great a marketing tool the Hawaii carrot was for them and sets out to make it happen again. It would be easy to see all these angry people and conclude never to place the company where this would ever happen again. Delta just merged with Northwest which flies to Hawaii. I know Southwest the great company that it is can in time save the day.
Jo111
Not applicable
I understand that this is not your fault, and you had nothing to do to contol this. But it takes 30 days to process a credit card refund, what is the longest time someone could wait for a refund if you have to do 20,000?
Christine4
Not applicable
While we are all pretty upset about the recent events, first with Aloha and then ATA, it is of hope that Southwest will think about flying to Hawaii in the future. We have flown Southwest for a number of years and hope to continue to do so in the future. My husband and I purchased a gift card for our daughter and her finance to be able to fly to Hawaii for their honeymoon in June. It was such a shock when she called that morning and said that ATA went bankrupt. The rub with all of this is that no matter what we tried to do to get this resolved through Southwest, all we got was what the rules were. This is what surprised me the most. I do understand that after listening to people ask for exceptions, etc. all day long that it could probably get annoying after awhile, however, no one would budge on the rules. I do have a concern about gift cards. While it was generous of Southwest to give our money back, it did not go back into the original format, as was stated in so many of the emails and even in this blog. It was handled as if you cancelled the flight yourself and now there is a time limit on how long you can keep that gift card. Based on the three times I called and the other two times my daugher called, they weren't budging from their decision in customer service.
John30
New Arrival
Unlike the upset people commenting on this string/thread, I am trying to know when the newest schedule will be released? Thanks
Anonymous689
Not applicable
Hey John- I can totally answer that for you. Right now the schedule is going to be released tomorrow April 18, 2009. We at reserations are totally ready for all your calls. :) Jerilyn- I am so thankful that you found Karen. It always makes me smile whenever I hear about my peers going beyond what is asked.
Jim15
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Bill Please think about a possible codeshare with Hawaiian Air to replace the ATA agreement. Many of us who live in Hawaii want to connect with SW like we did with ATA. We learned about your airline thru our ATA flight connections and we're hooked on SW! Why not explore the possibility?
Eric20
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I completely understand everybody's frustration whether you were going to Hawaii or stuck there. I am a Southwest Flight Attendant based in Chicago. I am quite frustrated with the holding company of ATA, Global Aero Logistics, who also owns World Airways and North American. The holding company did not go out of business and should be held liable for their decision to just close the doors without assuring that passengers could at least get back home. As for Southwest, I love my airline. We treat the customers like gold, as we should. I work my tail off on every flight to ensure that passengers have a great experience. When Southwest decided in 2005 to codeshare with ATA, I had my doubts. I worked at ATA as a flight attendant and was laid off after 3 years of service. The airline was ever far from stable to begin with. The combination at the time was very beneficial to Southwest and their customers because ATA was basically our void where needed. Although Southwest may have made promises, I truly believe our company did the best that they could given the circumstances of Aloha also going out of business. No other airline is going to put you on their flights for free, but they made sure they raised those fares real fast...I think that Southwest made the best decision by refunding your tickets plus giving you a travel voucher for your inconvenience. They have nearly 40,000 passengers to deal with due to the demise of ATA. And we are truly trying folks. There are no flights to put you on in the near or even mid-long term future. I am giving free drinks on the plane for folks who were abandoned by ATA. We are doing our best in a situation that created turmoil for Southwest, the poor employees of ATA, and most of all, OUR CUSTOMERS! We do care and I really hope you all give us another chance. Unfortunate things happen, but for the most part, Southwest has truly given this country the opportunity to afford to fly. So on behalf of myself and my company, I truly want to apologize and look forward to meeting and conversating with many of you on my future flights.
Bob31
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Please correct me if I am wrong, but didn't swa go through updates and upgrades to all their 737's a few years back, for overwater flight certification?Yes and one more question. Why are you dropping three flights from sdf that average an 80% load factor? Just interested because I thought swa was about making money , not bad decisions.
Doug3
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Bill while your explanation of why SW can't and won't begin flights to and from Hawaii makes sense that's not the real issue. The real issue is SW should never have partnered with ATA without verifying and monitoring there financial health. Your failure to ensure your business partner was viable is only compounded by how poorly you took care of those of us with tickets for travel after May 3. Your explanation that there are not enough seats available to accommodate those of us with travel after May 3 is a blatant lie. The real issue is cost to SW. I was able to find seats on 3 different airlines for my travel dates in late May but at a substantially higher price than my tickets with SW and ATA. So I had to make a choice cancel my familyÃ
Lisa_L1
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Dumped on again by Southwest. I was told that I was going to get a refund for the money I spent on my Rapid Rewards Voucher. I spent $120 because some of my rewards were going to expire. I was credited $20. I was told that because they dumped my Rewards back into my account, I was not going to get the $100 back. Wait a minute....Am I going to Hawaii? NO So where is my refund?
Eric20
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As in my previous post...Has anyone addressed Global Aero Logistics, the holding company for ATA who is STILL in business. ATA Holdings changed their name to Global Aero Logistics and purchased World Airways and North American Airlines. Mattlin Patterson is a firm who gave Global Aero Logistics the capital to run all operations. Mattlin Patterson decided to cuts its losses in ATA, and still keep World and North American. Southwest can only do so much. When you code share with a company, you are not obligated to share all financial information with another company. With Global Aero Logistics and Mattlin Patterson providing capital, ATA was much more stable than a standalone entity. As for all the passengers, yes, I would be extremely frustrated. But Southwest cannot pay for nearly 40,000 people to take United or American for $1000 a ticket. Its just not feasible. Southwest did give anyone affected travel vouchers on top of their refund. Unfortunately people, we are beginning to see pricing in the airline industry at where it needs to be. If you got tickets for $300-$600 roundtrip, that was great. But thats the reason everyone will go out of business like ATA. Its not your fault, but the airlines need to charge much higher fares to cover costs. Everyone is so used to flying for thrifty fares and expecting the world. Well the airlines need to charge 3 times the amount that they are charging now, and maybe everyone wouldn't get nickled and dimed for amenities...and we wouldn't have to worry about failing airlines.
nsx
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The people over at flyertalk, including me, have been quite critical of Southwest in this situation. And we are Southwest's biggest fans. It was natural for Southwest's Employees to jump in and help out. It was natural for all of them to have a "can do" attitude and to have the confidence that the top brass would back them up. Hasn't it always worked that way? What was not natural was for the top brass to count the cost and pull the rug out from under Southwest's Employees who were doing the right thing, and at the same time from under Southwest Customers who had had complete confidence that Southwest would protect them. Bill, feel free to correct me if my inferences here are wrong. I'm only a Customer, after all. This would have stung a lot less if top management had permitted a direct explanation that the decision not to protect customers past May 3 was a matter of cost, pure and simple, and if they had given us a dollar figure. Top management gets paid to take these hits on the chin for Employees. They are supposed to have balls. Instead, they obfuscated the reason and delegated the spin to the same outstanding Employees they just pulled the rug out from under! I doubt that this situation would have developed in the same way under Herb. I would still have been disappointed, but I could have respected an explicit admission that the originally intended protection had become too expensive to offer consistently with Southwest's obligation to its shareholders. Incidentally, I am one of those shareholders. I didn't have a trip booked to Hawaii. Purely as a shareholder, I believe that the trust earned over decades and squandered here will cost Southwest more than the $10 million or so, give or take a factor of two, that I'm guessing Southwest would have spent to save everyone's trips. Within the airline industry, Southwest is one of very few companies with a truly loyal following. That's a precious asset. Sometimes top management has to do the right thing for the company's long-run interest even if Wall Street will scream about the next quarterly earnings report. Wall Street can't measure loyalty so they think it doesn't exist. They are wrong. Don't let them intimidate you into making a mistake like this again.
Anonymous4371
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nsx, It's good that you admit that your theory is based on inference, not facts. Once ATA ceased operations, there was no path to make everyone's plans whole. You can debate about what might have been a better or worse path to follow, but it seems pretty clear that there is not enough capacity to accommodate many, perhaps most, of the people who were affected by ATA's actions. No matter what Southwest did, many people would be frustrated and upset, with good reason. But that reason is not primarily anything Southwest did, or did not, do. It is the fact that two airlines serving Hawaii went out of business in a very short period.
nsx
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Bill Owen wrote: "While we have successfully reaccommodated the majority of our Customers traveling between now and May 3, we have also realized that the only realistic option as we go forward into peak travel season is to give full refunds on existing purchased tickets. As we examined reaccomodation options beyond May 3, it became readily apparent that, given the significant reduction in capacity between the Mainland and Hawaii after the discontinuation of both ATA and Aloha Airlines, there were simply too few seats left available to offer all of our Customers suitable rebooking options." Bill, were you trying to say that the number of people booked per day for the summer months was much greater than the number per day for April, exceeding the total number of unsold seats? Even though the summer travel season was two full months away and many people don't book that far ahead? And even though Southwest had not sold any tickets at all for travel after August 22? This would seem to be the only way that it would be literally impossible (as opposed to merely expensive) to find seats for everyone in May-August even though Southwest had found seats for everyone in April. Or were you saying that the fares were much higher in the peak travel season and therefore less affordable? Or were you saying both, that more passengers per day needed to be accommodated at higher fares each, and many would still face sold-out flights? Did Southwest unsuccessfully attempt to negotiate a volume discount from UA or HA? Was that the last straw? If sufficient seats didn't exist at any price, why not rebook as many as you could, based on original booking date? Nobody could then criticize Southwest for not doing everything it could. I could have respected even a decision that Southwest would add a maximum of $400 per person to the ATA fare, and that the customer would have to pay the rest. The idea that rebooking has to be offered to everyone or nobody is silly. Every day Southwest boards standby passengers while others are left behind for a later flight or another day. It's first-come, first-served, and everybody understands that. Do you cancel a flight when it's oversold, leaving everyone behind rather than just the last few people? Of course not. Bill, your statement leaves customers like me guessing as to Southwest's precise motivation. The only time that outcome makes sense is when the explanation would confirm the worst suspicions. Otherwise it's beneficial to make your case as clearly as possible, leaving no room for incorrect inferences. IMHO, a clear and direct exposition of the problem, complete with numbers of seats and dollar cost estimates, could have changed quite a few minds and retained most of the trust that has been lost. When trust is at issue, the solution is openness.
Bill
Employee
Employee
Nsx, forgive my delay in responding (and yes, blog readers, IÃ
Eric20
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Bill, I couldn't agree with you more. People are going to hear only what they want to hear. Our airline did the best in a situation that was dismal. And for those of you who stated that we should have known about ATA's finances, well folks, any airline is up in the air at this point. Are you going to fly United to Hawaii who just lost 537 million dollars or American, who lost 328 million dollars in just one quarter? No one has a crystal ball. No airlines are safe from peril. When all the airlines finally get their act together and raise fares tremendously to offset fuel costs, then there is a topic for your debate. But you cannot have your cake and eat it too. Fares that are conducive to cover wages, benefits, and especially fuel equals a successful airline. Fares that warrant thrifty passengers that aren't willing to pay higher prices, well, just drive then.
nsx
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Bill, thank you for your gracious reply to my post. Your explanations are beginning to sink in. If I'm still unsure of all the facts, it's a cinch that many others are also unsure. You wrote: >if you refer back to the original press release we specifically stated that Ã
LaWatha_Wisehar
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I'm not going to read all the negative comments written before me. There's nothing that can be said that would sway my genuine appreciation of Southwest Airlines and their handling of this matter. I haven't been to Hawaii in over 10 years, and was really looking forward to flying over there on May 11 for 10 days. My heart sank when I heard on the news that ATA had cancelled all flights. We gave it some time for the dust to settle and then called Southwest Airlines. Since we were using rapid rewards for half of our flights, we couldn't really afford the extra expense of paying full fare to fly to Hawaii. We lost money on our condo reservation. I was disheartened, but the Southwest agent was very sympathetic, and suggested we go to Florida or some beach in Texas instead, and just use the rapid rewards. HUH? Oh yeah!!! What a fine idea. So Key West it is... and though it isn't Hawaii, we'll have a great time. Happy campers. : ) Then I heard that Southwest was giving vouchers to all those who were inconvenienced. I called Southwest, and was told that that was just for people who weren't issued refunds. (We were issued refunds, so that didn't apply). Imagine my utter shock and joy last night when the emails popped up saying my husband and I were both getting Southwest vouchers. More then happy, I was elated. I just wanted to say "Thank You", Southwest... for handling this whole affair with tact and patience and generosity of spirit... we really do "LUV" you!!!
Richard_McCoy
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I want to express that I share the opinions of many of the bloggers above that it is unforgivable for SW to have renegged on the re-accomadation promise. I remember feeling like I would be"taken care of" when I first call the reservation desk after the news. I ask the representative multiple times to state and re-state that my family would be "re-acommodated" at no charge. I was absolutely promised this multiple times. I just got off the phone and of course as all of you know, everything has changed. So I'll spend 5G's to get my daughter to her soccer tourneyment in Hawaii. Thank God I have the means to do it, but SW which I believe was the only airline with a soul, has now lost their special status. It was all so avoidable. Sign me up for the class action law suite.
nsx
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Bill, I apologize for being intemperate earlier. I'm normally as mild mannered as you are. And I really am a fan of Southwest and a fan of yours. Others on FlyerTalk have researched seat availability to Hawaii, and their results lead me to believe that Southwest's unattainable objective was rebooking at reasonable cost, not simply rebooking at any price. Had the rebooking objective been stated as subject to this cost constraint and to the acceptability (in the customer's opinion) of connection arrangements, people would have immediately understood. I certainly would not have argued with the decision had it been explained this way. One FlyerTalker noted that AA was offering discounted rates for stranded ATA passengers booked on flights up until May 3rd. After that date, costs for AA tickets presumably went way up. This FlyerTalker speculated that the airlines with Hawaii service decided to charge market prices beyond May 3, and that if Southwest attempted to negotiate a volume discount it was unsuccessful. Bottom line: If this is close to a correct explanation, I agree that Southwest did the best it reasonably could. In fact, one important reason I believe this explanation to be close to the mark is that I trust Southwest to make good decisions. If there's one thing you can count on Bill Owen for, it's finding the best solution to a constrained problem. So why didn't Southwest just come right out and state the decision this way? That I can't explain, except that sometimes in the heat of the battle one can't see the big picture that outsiders see. It's easy to take one's own level of knowledge for granted and forget that others do not have that familiarity with the constraints of the problem. So Bill, I'd still like to agree to agree, if you are agreeable. ;) nsx at flyertalk.com's Southwest forum
Not applicable
I got my RR tickets redeposited into my account but I still haven't gotten the travel vouchers that I was promised. Anyone know how long that's going to take?
Eric_Peterson
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We earned our "16-credits-for-a-free-flight" status in March, and were planning on going to Hawaii for our anniversary in November, and we had not purchased the tickets yet, so a refund isn't an issue. The question: While the above posts were made shortly after the ATA shutdown, there hasn't been any update on Southwest's intentions since. Does Southwest plan to partner with someone else? Or is it part of the long-term planning to start service eventually? Or are we better off just saying "okay, we're going someplace else for our anniversary"? As an aside... we've flown at least a dozen trips, both with Southwest and with other carriers to places where SWA does not fly. While we are rarely truly comfortable on a flight, that is more of a function of our size and aging bones than it is a function of SWA's seating configurations. We have not had a flight canceled in years, and have always found SWA to be at least as accommodating as anyone -- and more so than most. But as with at least one other person who posted here (and didn't get a response), flying into Des Moines wouldn't suck. ep
Andree
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I agree with the comment about flying to Des Moines. I am a loyal Southwest passenger, both for work and for pleasure, but when it comes time to visit my parents in Des Moines, I have to take my business somewhere else. Please please please start flying to DSM!
James01
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If Aloha 737-700 can do it, why not Southwest 737-700? Its long overdue.
Hawaiian_Airlin
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Okay, so it's expensive and there is no way for Southwest itself to do the Hawaii haul, but why not start talks with Mark Dunkerley, CEO of Hawaiian Airlines about this. Hawaiian already services the west coast and some mid-Atlantic states as well. They have the routes, the planes, and of course being Hawaii's #1 airline for decades, the knowledge of the Hawaii market as well as the aloha. HTA (Hawaii Tourism Authority) is looking for creative ways to bring tourists back to the islands during this major downturn in the economy. Hawaii has never seen things this bad even during the Gulf war and post 9/11. Hawaii's Governor Lingle has already earmarked 12 million dollars to HTA for marketing for 2009. Work with HTA and Hawaiian Airlines to see if some of these funds could be diverted to help subsidize passengers who have a choice between the Caribbean or Mexico, but choose Hawaii instead. Hawaii is like no other place on earth. Some Hawaii lovers will come to the islands no matter how much the fares are. Others who have only dreamed now find their dreams lost. It has no problem selling itself, but there simply needs to be a major effort help offset fares. I think it's well worth the effort.
Kim_at_Best_of_
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I agree with James01 when he says "Okay, so it's expensive and there is no way for Southwest itself to do the Hawaii haul, but why not start talks with Mark Dunkerley, CEO of Hawaiian Airlines about this." I think it would be worth the time and effort. ___________________________________ http://www.best-of-hawaii-directory.com/
Prasad
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This is a long dead thread, but here are my 2c. I recently moved to Hawaii, and I fly very often on work. I would be overly polite if I say that airlines flying between Hawaii and the mainland are incompetent, unpunctual, arrogant and an outright disaster, with the one exception of Hawaiian---but the flights by Hawaiian are way too few and their schedule is not very convenient for business travel. I would love to see the efficiency and friendly service I have come to associate with Southwest serve the non-tourist market and the segment that doesn't consider their airport time to be part of the holiday. So far, there is not one airline that comes close to serving this need. Something for Southwest to think about.
MB11
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I received a promotion from HA yesterday promoting 620.00 from San to HNL ????When Aloha et al was in the loop I flew rt on HA for 320.00?? I used miles for RT in the past and it was 32000 miles and now they want 50,000 for coach??? Southwest needs to move in and give HA a BIG wake up call
Anonymous2869
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Bill: Is there any update on the potential of Southwest starting routes to Hawaii? As the previous person posted the $620 "Special Fare's" on HA show the need for competion, as only Southwest can offer. MC
Jason4
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Hey Bill, Any word yet about SWA offering flights to Hawaii. I booking my honeymoon to Hawaii for the beginning of January and I'm about to spend $633 per person (LAX-HNL). And that doesnt include all the extra baggage fees I'm going to get stuck with. I'm looking for a miracle. Thanks
Mary_Ann1
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I too would like to see Southwest (or someone) get into the business of flying from the mainland to Hawaii. Most of my family is there and trying to afford regular trips over to see them is impossible. The older generation is dying off and I can't afford to visit. My mother had a stroke in May and is only now able to consider traveling. I am trying to get her to Oahu to see her aging sister before it is too late for either one of them. But the cost of flights, not to mention all the other expense is making it prohibitive! Hawaiian Airlines could afford to be competive back when they had competition - Now they are just being greedy and taking advantage of an unfortuate situlation. Hawaii isn't just about honeymooners, vacations and luxury holidays! It is populated by a whole bunch of people with a whole bunch of relatives that live elsewhere that can't afford to see them! SHAME ON YOU HAWAIIAN AIRLINES!!!! Sincerely, One pissed off Wahini.