Makani Kai to Provide Lower Airfare to Kalaupapa
Richard Schuman, owner of air service provider Makani Kai, confirmed last week his company will begin providing lower-cost flights in and out of Kalaupapa later this month. The flights are possible thanks to a federal Essential Air Service (EAS) subsidy awarded to his company by the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT).
Schuman said one-way flights between Kalaupapa and Honolulu will be $125 plus applicable taxes, averaging less than $140 total. One-way flights between Kalaupapa and Ho`olehua will be $65 plus taxes, he said, averaging less than $75 total.
He said the schedule “will vary a little bit,” but generally the company will offer each of its four flights – Kalaupapa to Honolulu, Kalaupapa to topside Molokai, Honolulu to Kalaupapa and topside Molokai to Kalaupapa – twice a day. Passengers will usually fly in one of the company’s nine-seat Cessnas, he said.
Makani Kai is awaiting some Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) paperwork before it can begin flying the route, and aims to implement the new schedule and costs by Dec. 12, Schuman said.
“It’s taken quite a bit of work,” he said.
The company has been providing flights to and from the settlement on an on-call basis for about two years through Damien Tours, he said.
USDOT Secretary Ray LaHood selected Makani Kai to receive the EAS following Kalaupapa residents’ distress over the high costs and inconsistent service of Pacific Wings. The company, which does not use a federal subsidy, has charged about $500 per round trip from the settlement to Honolulu or Ho`olehua.
A Pacific Wings employee who answered at the company’s phone number said she did not know of any plans to for the provider to discontinue service to Kalaupapa. She said company officials were not available for comment via phone.
Schuman said because of the costs associated with providing air service to remote areas like Kalaupapa, companies need the federal subsidy to keep flights affordable. The EAS is a nationwide program that offers assistance to provide flights to underserved, remote and rural areas.
“Basically from a business model it does not make any sense to service certain areas, or the price just has to be too high,” he said. “That’s where Pacific Wings, in my belief, tested the water.”
Department of Health Kalaupapa Administrator Mark Miller said there has been “quite the buzz” about the news in the settlement.
“[The reaction has been] extremely positive,” he said in a Dispatch article Nov. 30. “[Patients are] very excited about the lower fares. It’s been a long time coming.”