Ohana plans to suspend inter-island flights, leaving Molokai in the lurch

Coronavirus

MOLOKAI, Hawaii (KHON2) — Ohana by Hawaiian Air will temporarily suspend service between Honolulu, Molokai and Lanai starting Nov. 1. Mokulele Airlines will continue service, but their planes cannot accommodate everyone.

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In a statement, Hawaiian Airlines said the decision was made due to “low travel demand caused by the pandemic and the state of Hawaii’s quarantine restrictions triggered a labor provision in Hawaiian’s pilot contract affecting the carrier’s ability to provide ‘Ohana by Hawaiian service.”

Of the two airlines currently flying to Molokai and Lanai, Ohana was the only carrier able to accommodate wheelchair-bound passengers and those weighing more than 350 pounds.

Molokai Representative Lynn DeCoite said the island is losing one of its lifelines.

“I look at it as a health and safety issue we’re dealing with,” Decoite said.

Mokulele Airlines Chief of Staff Keith Sisson said they are working to accommodate passengers with limited mobility.

“We have a few wheelchair lifts that are being designed right now to put on Lanai and Molokai to help people that need the convenience of a wheelchair to get level to the boarding door of the aircraft. But once there, they will have to have the ability to to pivot from the wheelchair to the aircraft seat, not unlike what is required on any major carrier,” Sisson explained.

“We are allowing each passenger to bring with them, free of charge, a safety assistant to go with them to help them transport from the wheelchair seat to the aircraft seat. So we’ve made certain accommodations and I think that that’s going to work for the overwhelming vast majority of the people.”

Sisson said the lift in Honolulu is already operable. Those on Molokai and Lanai will be ready Nov. 1.

DeCoite said the lifts will help — to a point.

“The lift can only take 300 (pounds) even though the plane can take the 350. And you have people that are claustrophobic, people that are afraid to fly on a nine-seater. All those people are all going to be impacted by it.”

The law requires that people have access to adequate medical care. Many Molokai residents travel off-island to doctor appointments and to receive medical treatments that are not available on-island. Since Mokulele Airlines has some limitations, Maui Mayor Michael Victorino is troubleshooting.

“We’re asking Ohana (Airlines) and maybe some other airlines to look at what we can do for Molokai as far as transportation of our medical patients that may have to go to Oahu or Maui for various treatments, diagnostic testing, whatever else might be needed.”

Victorino said they are trying to coordinate once or twice-a day-flights through a carrier without weight limits to provide the vital service.

He added that they hope to have a plan in place before Ohana by Hawaiian Air suspends its service.

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