HONOLULU(KHON2) — Larger planes are finally coming to Molokai and Lanai. According to Mokulele Airlines, the new aircraft should arrive this summer and will help solve accessibility issues and flight limitations during peak hours.
Mokulele Airlines’ — owned by Southern Airways Express — shiny new aircraft will soon be on its way to the islands from Pennsylvania.
“We’re on the final stretches,” said Mokulele Chief of Staff Keith Sisson. “Now we have a couple of more regulatory approvals we have to jump through. But hopefully, in the next 30 or 45 days, the Southern Airways SAAB 340 will be flying between Honolulu and Molokai and Honolulu and Lanai.”
Mokulele is the only airline that flies to and from Molokai and Lanai. Three other airlines shut down during the pandemic including Hawaiian Airlines’ Ohana by Hawaiian Airlines, which operated an aircraft similar in size to the new plane.
For two years, the only option for Molokai residents has been to fly on the tiny single-engine aircraft, making it difficult for wheelchair-bound passengers or those with limited mobility, many of whom have to travel to the neighbor islands for doctors appointments.
Molokai resident Kalani Johnston said the new plane is a need, not a want. His mother Earline Johnston is one of many kupuna on Molokai and Lanai with mobility issues. He said she hasn’t visited her oncologist in two years because it’s too difficult for her to ride the small planes.
“You know, (the new airplane) is really gonna help us kupuna because we have aches and pains, cannot walk. You know, some of us cannot walk already,” Earline said. “And that plane is the one to take us to and from doctors on Maui and Honolulu.”
Since the cabin is taller, passengers won’t be forced to hunch over, making it easier to board.
Mokulele’s current fleet of Cessna Grand Caravan aircraft can accommodate nine passengers per flight. The new aircraft will hold three times that amount.
Sen. Lynn DeCoite, (D) said there is a high demand for more flights.
According to Sisson, the plane will make it easier to find a flight during peak hours and allow larger groups to fly all at once.
“For example, the Molokai football team, when they need to travel off-island, we would have to do that on three, nine-seat planes. Now we can do all of that on one aircraft,” Sisson explained.
“This is good. Good news,” DeCoite said. “It’s refreshing.”
They are planning on bringing two SAAB 340s to the islands. The second should arrive soon after the first.
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Sisson said that when guests go to book flights on the new aircraft they will be listed as Southern Airways so passengers know which plane they will be flying on.