Hawaii's Interisland Air Service on the Rise

Existing carriers expand while a third prepares to spread its wings By: Marty Wentzel
Mokulele purchased two new planes in order to meet growing demand for interisland flights. // © 2013 Mokulele Airlines
Mokulele purchased two new planes in order to meet growing demand for interisland flights. // © 2013 Mokulele Airlines

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Hawaii’s interisland air travel has been making headlines these days, with two existing Hawaii-based carriers expanding their fleets and a third poised for liftoff.

On March 8, 2013, Mokulele Airlines — based in Kailua-Kona on Hawaii Island — announced that it purchased two new Cessna Grand Caravan aircraft in order to keep up with the growing demand for interisland flights from visitors and residents alike.

“Our passenger loads have doubled in the year and a half since Transpac Aviation purchased Mokulele in 2011,” said Mokulele Airlines’ chief executive officer Ron Hansen. “We’re currently offering about 80 flights per day and the new aircraft will make it possible for us to offer more than 100 flights per day between Oahu, Maui, Lanai, Molokai and (Hawaii) the Big Island.”

Mokulele’s move came on the heels of a Feb. 26 announcement that Oracle founder and chief executive officer Larry Ellison — who recently purchased the island of Lanai — bought the interisland carrier Island Air, based in Honolulu. To its fleet, the airline has introduced a 64-seat ATR 72 aircraft featuring more seats and legroom than the 37-seat Dash 8s it has traditionally flown, and it is expected to add more ATRs in the future.

“This is another major investment and commitment to Hawaii,” said Paul Marinelli, vice president of Ellison’s company Lawrence Investments. “We understand the critical importance of transportation in an island state and we will ensure that Island Air strengthens its role, capacity and service to the people of Hawaii. We believe Island Air has tremendous potential to deliver value to both residents and visitors.”

Meanwhile, Honolulu-based Hawaiian Airlines’ new interisland operation — dubbed Ohana by Hawaiian — is set to inaugurate service to Molokai and Lanai in summer 2013. It will carry passengers in twin-turboprop aircraft seating 44 and 50 travelers.

“These are the ideal aircraft for service to the less populated islands in our state,” said Hawaiian Airlines president Mark Dunkerley. “This new service will complement the jet service offered by Hawaiian Airlines as well as provide the additional service that Molokai and Lanai residents have been requesting.”

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