Kalaupapa Flight Concerns
By Richard Miller
Editor’s note: The Kalaupapa community is circulating a petition for their voice to be heard in the selection of the airline that serves the peninsula through the federally awarded Essential Air Service subsidy. Makani Kai currently provides affordable flights to Kalaupapa through the EAS, however residents are concerned that may soon change. For more information or to sign the petition, email firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Kalaupapa peninsula is a remote triangular shaped area jutting out of the north shore of the Hawaiian Island of Molokai. The peninsula is surrounded on two sides by ocean, and on the third by the highest sea cliffs in the world. The primary access to Kalaupapa for goods and people is airplane, which promotes both a real dependency on the air carriers for stability in cost and fully reliable service.
We, the Hansen’s disease patients of Kalaupapa, the Department of Health staff, the volunteers and staff of the Kalaupapa National Historical Park, and clergy, are very concerned that Mokulele Airlines will be offering passenger air services to Kalaupapa without accepting the Essential Air Services subsidy. We understand that the subsidy is made available to offset operating costs incurred when there are few passengers. These are our concerns.
- By refusing the subsidy, an air carrier is free to manage price regulation according to its business needs. Without any control, Mokulele Airlines may charge any price they feel necessary. This would allow Mokulele Airlines to charge the residents of Kalaupapa an exorbitant amount for flights in and out of Kalaupapa. Our experience in the past with a carrier which did not accept the subsidy validates this concern: a round trip on Pacific Wings continued to rise until the cost for a round trip to Honolulu reached five hundred dollars.
- We are concerned that the flights for patients who have a scheduled medical appointment(s), will be cancelled. A proposed schedule change involving a stop over at the topside Molokai airport, will increase their travel time, will add to their anxiety, and, particularly on outgoing flights, will interfere with ground transportation schedules.
- Currently Makani Kai willingly carries coolers and boxes which contain food and provisions for our sustenance; Mokulele Airlines has already informed us that there will be a charge for each piece carried.
- The management of Makani Kai has displayed understanding of the flight needs of all the various staff members for transportation at the beginning and end of the work week by adding flights at crucial times. The schedule proposed by Mokulele Airlines would leave nearly seventy five per cent of the workers without transportation at the beginning and ending of their work week.
- Most of the Hansen’s disease patients, are wheelchair bound or have difficulty in ambulation. The staff of Makani Kai has been sympathetic and helpful in this regard. There has been no guarantee from Mokulele Airlines that their staff will assist these patients or will allow members of the Department of Health staff or family members, to assist them through TSA screening or help them onto and off the plane via the tarmac.
- We feel as though our situation has not been fully comprehended, and therefore we feel as though further negotiations, including consultation with the people of the Kalaupapa community be undertaken before any decision on the matter of the air carrier for Kalaupapa is made.