Makani Kai Re-Selected for Kalaupapa Service
The Federal Department of Transportation (DOT) has awarded Makani Kai Air the Essential Air Service (EAS) subsidy to service Molokai’s isolated settlement of Kalaupapa for the next four years.
“Kalaupapa Settlement is thrilled to continue in the Makani Kai ohana and look forward to four more years of excellent on time service as we have enjoyed for the past two years,” said Mark Miller, the Department of Health Kalaupapa administrator.
Makani Kai was originally awarded the Kalaupapa EAS at the end of 2011 for two years, and filed for renewal to continue serving the settlement last year. Mokulele Airlines and two mainland companies also applied.
The EAS is a federal subsidy that ensures rural communities throughout the U.S. receive adequate air service. Airlines are selected through an application process that examines factors like requested funding, flight schedules and community input.
Makani Kai will continue the current service of 12 non-stop round trips a week to Honolulu and 18 round trips a week to Ho`olehua with a nine-seat Cessna Grand Caravan under a DOT contract from June 1, 2014, through May 31, 2018.
“The local people have spoken,” said Richard Schuman, owner of Makani Kai Air. “Our focus since day one has been on making air travel affordable for the people of Kalaupapa. We set the service level bar so high, no other airplane / airline company could compete. But don’t take my word for it, ask the residents of Kalaupapa.”
The Kalaupapa community had expressed vocal support of Makani Kai’s EAS renewal.
“Announcement of the award of EAS service to Makani Kai Air for the next four years was met with people driving around the settlement, beeping their horns and shouting out the good news,” said Miller. “Everyone is in a joyous state of celebration honoring and celebrating our friends at Makani Kai and uninterrupted service everyone in and visiting Kalaupapa loves. We look forward to continuing our positive and ‘ohana’ relationship with Makani Kai.”
Many of the letters from the community focused on the airline’s strong customer service standards, explaining that the air carrier often goes “above and beyond the call of duty” for its passengers.
“Looking at the totality of the circumstances, given Makani Kai’s reliability at Kalaupapa, the uniqueness of the situation of the community’s air service needs, and the strong support of Kalaupapa’s community officials and users of the service, the Department selects Makani Kai to serve Kalaupapa for a four-year term,” said Susan Kurland, assistant secretary for the DOT’s Aviation and International Affairs. “Additionally, we find that both Makani Kai’s service and subsidy levels are reasonable.”
The four-year subsidized service by Makani Kai will begin at a rate of $751,040 in the first year; and $730,848 in the second year. The third year subsidy rate will be $710,656, and the fourth year subsidy rate will be $690,463, according to the airline’s DOT application.
Airfares will remain at $72.50 between Kalaupapa and Honolulu and $42.50 between the Kalaupapa and Ho`olehua.
“Everything we’ve done, every aspect of my company, we not only do the best job humanly possible but we exceed passenger expectations,” Schuman said. “We, my company and all my employees, are extremely thankful. We have a lot of gratitude for the decision the DOT made and we have a lot of aloha for the people of Kalaupapa.”