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Island Air gets expert help as it considers restructuring

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    star-advertiser / 2012 A Chapter 11 reorganization plan could be in the works for Island Air after airline officials hired a restructuring expert and a global law firm specializing in bankruptcies. Island Air's first ATR 72 turboprop aircraft taxis on the tarmac at Honolulu Airport on its way to the company's maintenance hangar.

Island Air has hired a restructuring expert and a global law firm specializing in bankruptcies that could pave the way for the company to file for Chapter 11 reorganization.

Company spokesman Michael Rodyniuk, while acknowledging that "anything’s possible," said no bankruptcy is planned at this time.

"We as a company have an obligation to the owner to ensure that all strategic alternatives are looked at, and that’s precisely what we’re doing," said Rodyniuk, executive vice chairman of Island Air’s parent company. "We’re making sure we have the right people on the team to optimize the value of the company for the owner (Charles Willis), the people who work here and the traveling public."

The local carrier, which said last month it had a preliminary agreement to sell the airline to an undisclosed buyer, announced Tuesday it has appointed attorney and restructuring expert Peter Kravitz to its board of directors and retained the firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP & Affiliates. Van C. Durrer II, who leads Skadden’s corporate restructuring practice in the western United States and consults on restructuring around the Pacific Rim, has been assigned the Island Air case.

"I’m advising the company on strategic alternatives, which range from, in the worst-case scenario, a shutdown and liquidation, to a best-case scenario, a transaction that would result in a restructuring of the debt of the company out of court," Durrer said by telephone from Los Angeles.

Restructuring the airline out of court would enable the company to avoid costly legal fees.

Prepackaged or prearranged bankruptcies, in which the creditors agree to terms before a bankruptcy is filed to help expedite the process, also are possible options, said Durrer, who was involved with bankruptcies at US Airways, Delta Airlines and American Airlines.

Colorado-based aviation consultant Mike Boyd said it’s unlikely the airline is planning to liquidate at this point.

"It looks to me like they’re just trying to reorganize before someone buys them. If you’re going to liquidate, you hire the local law firm on the corner to handle that for you. They brought in some powerful people," Boyd said.

A Chapter 11 reorganization would allow the airline to continue to operate — like Hawaiian Airlines did in its recent bankruptcy — while getting breathing room to hold off creditors and work out agreements to reduce or eliminate debt.

Rodyniuk said the buyer, who has asked to remain unidentified, is still in a "due diligence" period assessing the company’s financial and operational records.

"We’re progressing as we had anticipated," Rodyniuk said. "We have an internal timeline we’re working toward that we’re not prepared to make public."

Two sources told the Star-Advertiser last month that the buyer was billionaire Larry Ellison, the CEO and co-founder of software giant Oracle Corp., but Rodyniuk repeatedly has declined to confirm or deny it.

Island Air has 245 employees, most represented by unions. Rodyniuk said four of the airline’s five unions have ratified new contracts, including flight attendants, mechanics and stock clerks, all represented by Teamsters Local 996; and the dispatchers, represented by the Transport Workers Union. He said the airline has a tentative agreement with the pilots, represented by the Air Line Pilots Association.

ALPA spokeswoman Lydia Jakub said the pilots agreement, which outlines terms and conditions for the new ATR aircraft that Island Air is bringing in, protects pilot pay, preserves key work rules and ensures that pilots will be able to maintain a reasonable quality of life flying the new aircraft. She said the contract still needs to be ratified and will be presented to pilots on Friday.

Willis, whose family-owned company Gavarnie Holding LLC bought the airline from Aloha Airgroup in 2004, said in a statement that Kravitz "will provide critical guidance as we reshape this company and prepare it for sale" and that the guidance of the airline’s management team and recently hired professionals gives Island Air "every opportunity to succeed."

Kravitz did not return a phone call and email seeking comment.

Island Air, which is operating 322 flights a week with just two 37-seat Bombardier de Havilland Dash 8 aircraft, is awaiting Federal Aviation Administration certification for its 64-seat ATR 72, which has been sitting idle since September.

Rodyniuk said he believes the timing of the certification is "imminent."

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