Ohana Air halts service to Molokai and Lanai, leaves elderly residents in tough situation

Local News

KAUNAKAKAI, Hawaii (KHON2) — Ohana by Hawaiian Airlines will stop offering passenger and cargo services for Molokai and Lanai starting on Friday, January 15. Residents said, wheelchair-bound residents will be left without adequate medical transportation to other islands.

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The Airlines originally planned to suspend its services on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020, due to a decrease in demand. They agreed to a delay due to a 90-day notice requirement by the Department of Transportation, but that ends on Friday, Jan. 15. Some said, that will create health risks for many kupuna.

Molokai resident Kalani Johnston cares for his wheelchair-bound mother. She — like many on Molokai and Lanai — are forced to fly to Oahu and Maui regularly for medical treatments

“I know off the top of my head at least 60 family members who need this Ohana Airlines because their medical fragileness. My mom has cancer and the only way she can travel is by ohana,” Johnston said.

Lanai and Molokai residents like Johnston and his mom will say aloha to Ohana by Hawaiian as they suspend their services on Friday, Jan. 15 — leaving Mokulele Airlines as the sole airline with routes to and from those islands.

Mokulele’s small nine-seater turboprop planes make it difficult for wheelchair-bound and passengers weighing more than 350lbs to fly.

A message from Ohana by Hawaiian Executive Vice President Jon Snook on Sunday, Jan. 6, said: “The DOT has now ruled that Essential Air Service to these islands will be sufficiently maintained
by Mokulele Airlines, permitting us to suspend our LNY and MKK operations as anticipated.”

Rep. Lynn Decoite said, the State is working with Mokulele to accommodate passengers in wheelchairs and those near the weight limit.

“We have just about put almost every measure possible,” DeCoite said. “(Mokulele) has a wheelchair accessibility lift to help you on, but like even ohana you will still have to be able to transfer yourself from that seating position to the chair.”

Johnston said, that will never work because the plane is too small.

“Most of them have knee problems and hip problems and to bend at that angle to get into that little plane. It’s impossible for them to do it,” he explained.

DeCoite said, Mokulele will allow one person to fly free with those who need assistance.

Noelani Johnston, Kalani Johnston’s wife, said she does not think Mokulele Airlines can accommodate all the kupuna who need to fly for medical reasons.

“(Kalani) just took his mom (to Oahu on Ohana). There was nine people in a wheelchair,” she said. “How can Mokulele do that? You know, they can’t lift nine people up in that plane.”

DeCoite said, Mokulele is only able to accommodate one passenger up to 400 pounds per flight, but added that Mokulele will add more flights if they are needed and said there is a possibility Ohana may resume service if demand increases.

Johnston and other Molokai residents gathered at the Molokai Airport on Thursday, Jan. 14, with signs to raise awareness. He hopes someone will step in to help.

“It’s not one want, it’s a necessity,” Johnston said.

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