"Air Delivery Sustains Island Taste Buds"
By Tim Ryan Edible Hawaiian Islands Spring 2009
How long does it take to get a 1,500-pound water buffalo from Honolulu
Well, even without actor Ben Stiller and company wanting it
“right now” for his Kaua`i-based film Tropic Thunder, Aloha Air Cargo
just loaded the beast inside one of its five Boeing cargo planes and had
the surprisingly docile animal there in about the usual length of an
“Definitely one of the most unusual shipments for us,” said Eddie
Araujo, director of sales for Aloha Air Cargo. “We shipped it in an open
air crate without any problems. But the two handlers decided not to fly
Though Aloha Air Cargo had its beginnings as a unit of the former
Aloha Airlines, originally carrying freight in the cargo holds below
the floors of regular passenger flights, the company now uses Boeing
737-200 aircraft to carry a variety of products between Honolulu, Hilo,
Kona, Kahului and Lihue.
Aloha Air Cargo averages 14 to 16 departures a day from Honolulu
to the Neighbor Islands, handling 175,000 pounds of goods daily.
Maui, Kaua`i and the Big Island in return ship to Honolulu 50,000–
75,000 pounds of goods daily.
For Hawai`i residents hungry for fresh fruits, vegetables, fish, some
meats and other perishables coveted for freshness, no cargo is more
important than these.
Perishables, including cut flowers, make up about 30 percent of
the company’s business, Araujo said. Packaged goods like deli products,
sushi and even Bentos for businesses like 7-11 make up another
“People want to buy food grown closer to home,” Araujo said. “Air
[transport] allows Neighbor Island farmers to pick fruits and vegetables
closer to their ripeness and get them to market as a better-tasting product.”
Locally caught fish are not frozen but covered with Gel-Paks for
shipping. Most of the fish the company ships is out of Honolulu to
the Neighbor Islands, including imported fish products. Aloha Air
Cargo is the only overnight carrier to offer refrigeration capabilities at
all Hawaiian Island locations. “Let’s say we get a perishable from a
Lihue grower at 7 p.m., we’ll have it in the hands of the Honolulu distributor
by 6 the next morning,” Araujo said. “It’s a win-win for the
grower, the consumer and for Aloha Air Cargo.”
"Aloha Air Cargo is the only overnight carrier to offer
refrigeration capabilities at all Hawaiian Island locations."
Shipments move very quickly. Perishables received in Honolulu
between 5 and 7 p.m. go out on the first bank of flights from 8:30 to
“That means it’s picked up by Neighbor Island distributors at 4
a.m.,” Araujo said.
The company continues to progressively support the state’s position
for more sustainability and is working with Neighbor Island farmers
and the Hawai`i Farm Bureau to initiated future programs.
“We put together a pilot program in December 2007 to enable
farmers to take advantage of our same-day and overnight services to
Honolulu at a very attractive rate,” Araujo said. Aloha Air Cargo now
is putting together an even more comprehensive system-wide program
for the farm bureau that will include Hawai`i-grown products as well
as packaged perishable products out of Honolulu to the Neighbor Islands.
After Aloha Airlines’ passenger service went out of business in
March 2008, the company and its creditors, with the help of U.S. Sen.
Daniel Inouye, sold the airline’s profitable cargo division to Seattlebased
Saltchuk Resources, Inc. (Saltchuk Resources has been doing
business in Hawai`i since 2000, when it acquired Young
Brothers/Hawaiian Tug & Barge.)
Aloha Air Cargo also has daily charters for its relished same-day
service. Through partnerships with other Hawai`i airlines and
international carriers, Aloha Air Cargo can arrange shipments from
any Hawai`i city to any destination worldwide.
DHL, Federal Express, Love's Bakery, UPS and the U.S. Postal
Service are some of the notable shippers.
“We take our responsibilities very carefully to not only get products
to a location on time but safely, whether it’s a 3/4-ton water buffalo
or watermelons,” Araujo said.