Mayor Bissen Heard Mokulele Concerns
By Jack Kiyonaga, Reporter
Molokai residents took the opportunity to air their many flight grievances and address overwhelming frustration with unreliable and expensive flights on Mokulele Airlines two weeks ago when Mayor Richard Bissen made a two-day visit to Molokai.
A talk story event at the Mitchell Pauole Center constituted the mayor’s first stop on his Holomua Kakou initiative, with the goal of visiting towns around Maui County.
The purpose of the trip was to run the County of Maui out of Molokai for two days, as well as field questions from Molokai residents in a communal talk story gathering.
While reminding the Molokai community that the County government does not have input on private airlines like Mokulele, Bissen called Keith Sisson, Chief of Staff at Mokulele’s parent company Southern Airways, to have a conversation with Molokai residents.
Sisson cited reductions in flights during COVID as the beginning of problems for Mokulele. Reductions in flights meant a change in scheduling that Mokulele has just recently re-configured to be more efficient.
“We created what we think is a very, very good schedule,” said Sisson, which went into effect March 1.
This new schedule staggers departure times between flights, increases the allotted time for flight durations as well as the time between flights themselves, and adds pilot breaks during the day. Mokulele also plans on making multiple trips per day on the company’s larger, 28-seater plane. Sisson estimated that the changes should result in 12 percent more seats available per day for Molokai.
And while the new schedule started on March 1, flights in the first few weeks of March were not “very, very good” on Molokai.
Sisson explained that the recent delays were due mostly to extreme weather conditions, which caused damage to two planes in addition to delays.
“You should probably see a very drastic improvement over what the operation has been like in the last couple months,” said Sisson.
Molokai residents continued to push Sisson on certain issues, especially “very unfair” ticket pricing.
Molokai residents also encouraged Sisson to make an in-person trip to hear concerns directly from those severely affected by recent influx of cancellations and delays, especially those with resulting cancelled medical appointments.
In his inaugural State of the County address on March 21, Mayor Bissen shared thoughts regarding his visit to Molokai.
“I’m grateful for the over 120 residents of Molokai who chose to spend their evening with our team,” said Bissen. “We enjoyed hosting talk story sessions with the over 40 employees from six departments we were able to visit with at their worksites.”
Bissen highlighted one Molokai program in particular in the State of the County Address – the Molokai Rural Health Community Association’s Kupuna Care Program. The mayor called the program “one of the most inspiring community organizations I was able to meet with while on island.”
In his address, Bissen likewise touched on the Molokai-specific issue of axis deer management.
Citing the massive ecologic damage the deer population continues to inflict, Bissen offered a solution of “developing a market incentive” to handle the deer.
“We will provide an economic stream of venison products, making use of an existing certified processing plant on Maui, and bringing to fruition a plan to manage and mitigate thousands of axis deer that have started to invade our precious watersheds, valuable grazing and farm lands, backyards and gardens, roadways and public parks,” said Bissen.
Molokai residents can watch Mayor Bissen’s full State of the County Address at mauicounty.gov.