Kalaupapa Air Service Up for Grabs
U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Sen. Dan Inouye met with Kalaupapa patients last Wednesday in Honolulu to discuss the $500 air fares that Pacific Wings charges, the only carrier to serve the peninsula.
LaHood discussed the possibility of releasing Essential Air Service (EAS) federal funds to Kalaupapa for subsidized flights. Currently, bids are being taken from two carriers, Makani Air and Iolani Air. LaHood is hopeful that funds can be provided by this summer.
Congresswoman Mazie K. Hirono was also at the meeting and expressed the need for a change in laws.
“…Legislative language regarding service to Kalaupapa is necessary in the FAA reauthorization bill, I have been working on such language and can pursue that avenue when the House takes up the bill next week,” Hirono said.
Greg Kahlstorf, co-owner of Pacific Wings, said the possibility of other charter services being offered in Kalaupapa is remote, according to the Maui News. He said his attorneys have found that as long as the peninsula is being served without federal subsidies, EAS cannot be provided to other carriers.
LaHood expressed his concerns about the high airfares that increased from $120 to $500 for a round-trip ticket to Honolulu within the last two years.
LaHood is supporting the idea to bring a return of subsidized Essential Air Services (EAS). The federal funds provided by EAS could decrease ticket prices 60 percent, according Senator Inouye’s office.
“Today, Transportation Secretary LaHood joined us to address a small, heartfelt issue – the need for reasonable fares and reliable service for the people of Kalaupapa, ” Inouye said in a press release.
Kahlstorf applied for EAS subsidies last December, but pulled his request in January after hearing complaints by Kalaupapa residents about his service.
LaHood also stated that federal funds would be used to purchase a wheelchair-accessible ramp for the airstrip in Kalaupapa.
Kahlstorf said there is currently a ramp at the Kalaupapa airport that belongs to Pacific wings, but has been unsuccessful in attempts to sell it to the state, according to the Maui News.