Island Air to Decrease Molokai Flights Again
Air carrier Island Air is once again decreasing the number of flights the carrier offers to Molokai — this time to two per day, starting in November.
“The decision is pretty simple,” said Island Air CEO Paul Casey, who took the position two months ago. “We’re matching capacity with demand.”
In March, the company cancelled all its flights between Molokai and Maui, and in May, decreased flights between Molokai and Honolulu from five to three per day.
At that time, then-president Les Murashige told the Dispatch the Molokai schedule reduction was temporary.
“Our intent is to put additional flights back [between Molokai and Honolulu] in August or September,” said Murashige in March.
Now, the decrease from three to two daily flights has caused various levels of outrage for Molokai customers, some of whom rely on the carrier’s larger 64-seat aircraft for wheelchair accessibility and other considerations.
“This is really bad for Molokai,” said concerned resident Glenn Teves. “This limits options for residents with special needs, especially those requiring wheelchair access and those who have difficulties riding the smaller commuter planes.”
When asked how he would respond to customers needing Island Air’s aircraft for wheelchair accessibility, Casey said “book on the flights that we are operating.”
“Island Air’s timing of this as we head into the ‘busy’ season defies logic or reason,” said Molokai resident and business owner Teri Waros. “This is terrible news for all of us here on Molokai and will affect us all in one way or another.”
Maunaloa kupuna Kehau Pule agrees, adding other concerns to the list.
“The smaller planes… go by weight, and some people don’t want to catch the smaller airlines due to this, [which is] very embarrassing,” she said, via Facebook.
No Loss, Some Say
While many travelers expressed concern with Island Air’s scheduling decision, other Molokai residents said they actually prefer flying other carriers, citing complaints with Island Air’s notorious delays.
“I avoid Island Air as much as possible,” said Rita Woods via Facebook. “It seems there are frequent delays and cancelled flights.”
Fellow Molokai Dispatch Facebook respondent Betts Cruz agrees.
“I used to always fly Island Air,” Cruz wrote. “But they have become unreliable and un-flyable!”
“People are flocking to the competitors for a reason, of which being on time is only one,” added LeAnna Dixon. “Cutting flights is not the answer…improving the service is.”
Pule contacted Casey herself with her concerns about both the decreased schedule and the company’s frequently delayed flights.
“Our on time performance lately has been not good and for that I apologize,” Casey wrote her via email. “We are looking to bring in a fleet of new reliable aircraft because if you can’t fly on time you shouldn’t be in the airline business.”
Many customers couldn’t agree more.
“I prefer to fly Island Air due to comfort, however, can you blame customers for running to Mokulele or Makani Kai with all the constant unreliable service provided by Island Air?” chimed in Mikee Gomes via Facebook. “I am hoping Hawaiian Air will come in soon to better service the customers who need or prefer larger planes.”
Still No Date Set For Hawaiian Air
Hawaiian Airlines has been experiencing delays in the permitting process to begin their much-anticipated service, `Ohana by Hawaiian, to Molokai and Lanai.
In June, Ann Botticelli, Hawaiian Airlines senior vice president of corporate communications and public affairs, said “we have several hurdles to clear – including some FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] approvals – before we can set a firm [start] date.”
Last week, she confirmed the delays are continuing.
“We have been stymied by sequestration and are working very hard to break the logjam,” Botticelli said via email. “We are very much looking forward to launching our service to Molokai, and hope we will get a resolution soon.”
`Ohana by Hawaiian flights would use ATR 42 twin turboprop aircraft, the same model use by Island Air.
Other Carriers Increasing Service
Casey pointed to an increase in competitor Mokulele Airline’s flights to Molokai as part of the reason for Island Air’s schedule reduction.
“Mokulele has increased capacity a lot and our load factor has decreased,” he said.
Mokulele now offers as many as 12 flights per day between Molokai and Oahu, according to their online schedule.
Yet as Kehau Pule pointed out, passenger weight plays a factor in customer eligibility on the airline.
A disclaimer on Mokulele’s website states, “Mokulele Airlines is unable to accommodate passengers whose body weight exceeds 350 pounds. For this reason, we reserve the right to deny boarding based on body weight.”
Makani Kai Air, which operates the same Cessna Caravan aircraft as Mokulele, is relatively new to offering interisland service out of Ho`olehua Airport. The company has been serving Kalaupapa since January 2012, and began topside flights in June. The airline is offering $39 one-way fares during the month of October on its six to eight daily flights between topside Molokai and Honolulu.