Hawaiian Airlines ends ‘Ohana by Hawaiian passenger service after seeing no way to sustainably operate

Local News

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Hawaiian Airlines will be ending its ‘Ohana by Hawaiian passenger service between Honolulu and Molokai and Lanai.

The announcement on Thursday, May 27, also affects statewide ATR freighter cargo service.

Service between Honolulu and Kapalua was suspended in March 2020; freighter service was suspended in November 2020 and passenger service stopped on Jan. 14, 2021.

The temporary suspension of passenger and cargo flights was a result of the severe decline in neighbor island travel during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hawaiian has decided to end its service permanently after assessing the overall operation and its viability in the long run.

“This is a heartbreaking decision, particularly for those of us who were involved in launching the business in 2014,” said Peter Ingram, president and CEO at Hawaiian Airlines. “We took a hard look at the service and could not identify a way to restart and sustainably operate.”

Hawaiian said it would have incurred significant costs in restarting service with its current fleet of aircraft. The earliest flights would have resumed at the end of 2021.

On top of declines brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, restrictions like quarantines and pre-travel testing are weighing heavily on the inter-island market.

“I hope we’ll see those removed soon, because they make no sense and that’ll allow us to add back the service that the community really deserves and hopefully we’ll see that sooner than later,” said Jonathan Snook, chief operating officer for Hawaiian Airlines.

Travel experts say it is more than just a cost of a COVID-19 test that had changed things. More people are taking longer vacations.

“Even though you had three flights a day, you might not need that now, because the person doesn’t stay for four days, they’re staying for 12 days,” said Jerry Agrusa, a Travel Industry Management professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Maui County Mayor Mike Victorino released the following statement:

First, I’d like to thank Hawaiian Airlines for its years of service to Molokai and Lanai. Sadly, pandemic-related financial hardship and difficulty in hiring essential personnel led to this difficult decision. Hawaiian Airlines has been a good partner for the neighbor islands, and I’d like to believe the airline can return someday in the future. Fortunately, Mokulele Airlines will continue to serve both islands; Lanai can also rely on Expeditions Ferry service. Representative Lynn DeCoite and I have discussed our shared concerns about the loss of medical transport to, and from, Honolulu for patients who require special seating or the use of boarding ramps for mobility reasons. We understand that Mokulele has plans to expand to larger aircraft to compensate for the loss of lift, and we appreciate their concern for the people of Lanai and Molokai. We will continue to research alternatives for those with special travel needs.

Maui County Mayor Mike Victorino

As for filling the void left by Ohana by Hawaiian, Hawaiian is giving its equipment to Mokulele so it can better serve its passengers. Mokulele says it plans to be flexible to meet the community’s needs.

“We’re going to be ready to take those travelers to the smaller islands if they choose to go to the smaller islands and we will not be leaving behind any locals in the process,” said Keith Sisson, CEO of Mokulele Airlines.

Hawaiian launched ‘Ohana by Hawaiian flights in spring 2014, followed by all-cargo service in summer 2018.

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