Tuesday, August 5, 2008


DO DOGS RIDE FREE? The sow’s ear is busy again and trying to see how much manure it takes to convert it into a silk purse with today’s practically verbatim report of Hawai`i Superferry (HSf) spokesperson Lori Abe’s press release run in this morning’s Star-Bulletin.

But- miracles of miracles- the Honolulu Advertiser’s HSf cheerleader Christie Wilson, who has covered the boat’s promotional beat, actually either slipped up or tried to slip in a discouraging word or two on the contention that the skies for the interloping antelopes of our dear military boondoggle aren’t cloudy or gray.

After the perfunctory ingestions and regurgitations of the questionable recent rise in the numbers of passengers and cars- numbers that are, as un-noted in the corporate press, only verified by the StupidFerry people themselves- and a bunch of the usual Advertiser ad-supported drivel about how great the ferry is, she says this:

While critics of the new interisland service like to point out the 350-foot ferry is traveling half empty, Superferry President and CEO Tom Fargo sees the Alakai as half full and well on its way to acceptance as an interisland travel and cargo alternative.

But then surprisingly there’s this:

The gains in passenger and vehicle traffic are occurring while promotional pricing is in effect, and Superferry already is anticipating slower demand after August.

Ah, the soft prejudice of low expectations. But she goes on to actually further detail reasons for the expected downturn. What “full fare” will be is anyone’s guess but Wilson reports that:

For now, fares lower than what the airlines are offering and the novelty of the new interisland transport are attracting passengers, according to the survey.

Superferry had been offering one-way fares of $49 per person through the end of September, but the deadline for bookings was yesterday. New promotional fares are $10 higher.

Those $59 fares are good for travel through Oct. 31. Tickets for children ages 2 to 12, retired and active military, and seniors also went up $10, to $49.

Superferry also is extending a fuel surcharge waiver for promotional passenger fares. If put into effect, the surcharge — now at 65 percent — likely would eliminate the ferry's price advantage over interisland airlines.

That’s interspersed with a lot of excuses and more reasons for us to believe Abe and not our lying eyes.

But the fact remains that the only reason people are traveling by the boat is that the fares are so severely discounted that they are actually cheaper than any other form of interisland transport- even though all HSf’s original business plan numbers have shown it’s more costly per passenger to travel on the boat than via air.

“The survey” refers to a Qmark Research on-board survey of 347 of the more than 50,000 passengers on the USS Superferry from June 20- July 29- less than 1/3 of 1%.

And in a part of the poll conspicuously missing from Abe’s press release or the newspaper articles it confirms that most people are taking the ferry because it’s cheap or a novelty,

Amidst the high customer satisfaction numbers for which participants received a five buck voucher for participation (also unreported in the paper or press release) are these numbers

Reasons for using the Superferry

Lower cost- 51%
Wanted to try it- 47%
Need to travel with vehicle- 38%
Thought it would be enjoyable- 35%
Oceans landscape views- 6%
Positive experience/Enjoy form of travel- 10%

So presumably more than half would not travel when the fares go up And just under half say it was a one time thing. And the rest aren’t exactly going to be beating down the doors for another sightseeing trip at a much more exorbitant rate.

Only 38% cited a “need” to travel with their car- the prime type of passenger who HSf needs to make a business success of the venture. And it doesn’t say how many of those are taking their car because they save enough so they don’t have to rent a car due to the slashed prices- a condition that will disappear with normal fares

Another question is how reliable these kinds of customer satisfaction surveys are. If they are given- as they never are- by letting passengers grab a form, fill it out and drop it in a box, it might get their true feelings.

But when someone stands there with a clipboard and you have to tell the person working for the outfit that their service sucks, well it’s no wonder almost all of them say how wonderful it was- especially when being handed money AFTER answering the questions.

But perhaps the most insane part of all this is that these people who commented on the articles in the newspaper are touting how this shows that the ferry is a wonderful thing and will be successful in the long run- so shut up you idiots on Kaua`i

Parenthetically, Wilson reports: Superferry President and CEO Tom... Fargo said there are no plans at this point to resume service to Kaua`i.

The problem is that many are the self-same people who bemoaned what they saw as go! Airline’s “predatory pricing” having forced Aloha Airlines into bankruptcy with the same kind of business plan of offering lower rates than profitability warrants.

Yet these same people are back lauding the Superferry for their low fairs with a “see we told you” line that ignores that the company is still hemorrhaging money on every voyage and that no one’s going to take their boat at double or triple the prices when they can fly for less- unless maybe if they for some reason need their own cars or trucks... like maybe for stealing imu rocks.

And guess what- in another part of the survey that went unreported the 43% who did not take their car said these were the reasons:

36%- Don’t need a car this trip
28%- Someone picking me up using their own car
22%- Plan to rent a car
14% -Trip too short

And that’s now, without of course the regular fare for a car plus the “waived” fuel surcharge.

With the winter a’comin’ and less trips at presumably full fare it’s hard to see these unreported parts of the survey as a positive indicator

If this doesn’t spell trouble it’s hard to say what does.

With Wilson’s perfunctory mention of some of the potential gray clouds gathering, how long can the Superferry count on their bought and paid for mouthpieces to insure that never is heard a discouraging word?

We don’t know but we do know that mama always told us to watch where you step when you’re out there where the buffalo roam.

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