By Wendy Osher
Hāna residents lined the tarmac of the small airport in East Maui, ushering in an inaugural flight that marks a return of regular air service to the remote town.
In a welcome ceremony reminiscent of old Hawai’i, hula dancers and lei greeters embraced a small group of dignitaries that disembarked from a nine-seat Cessna Grand Caravan 208B aircraft.
The flight, launched in partnership between Travaasa Experiential Resorts and Mokulele Airlines, is the first scheduled air service to the Hāna community in more than a decade.
The 20-minute flight will operate twice-daily from Maui’s Kahului Airport to Hāna Airport. Ticket prices start at $59 each way and are open to residents and visitors.
In celebration of the new flight service, Travaasa Hana is offering kamaaina packages starting at just $295/night, which include roundtrip Kahului to Hana air for two (valued at $240), ground transportation to and from Hāna Airport, and $150 in resort credits.
“This new flight is exciting for not only ourselves, but for Maui–connecting the dots between Kahului and Hāna,” Said Mokulele Airlines General Manager Darryl Grace.
“It will give people the option to drive or fly. For us it’s kind of fulfilling a promise to Hawai’i by offering service to the various airports and bringing back the old Hawai’i, and how it used to be when you used to travel,” said Grace.
Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa noted that there used to be multiple flights going to and from Hāna, but this flight the mayor says, “will once again reopen those channels so that we can bring freight out of Hāna in a timely manner, and people can be able to travel in and out of Hana very quickly–otherwise it’s a two hour drive in and a two hour drive back.”
State Senator J. Kalani English, who represents the East Maui Community, said the flight will not only change the economy of Hāna, but how the town operates. “For 12 years we’ve not had air service, and this means that visitors can get in to Hana without having to drive the road.”
“More importantly, for the local people, we are able to come out for doctor’s appointments, shopping, whatever we need to do, and fly back home,” said Sen. English.
Because of the price point of $59 each way, Sen. English said, “If you were to add up your gas in a truck coming out of Hāna out to Kahului, a one way ticket is a little bit less than what it costs for a tank of gas to drive to Hana and back, so it’s really economical.”
“This should be really good for local Hāna residents and our guests,” said Chris Manning, president of Travaasa Experiential Resorts. “The road to Hāna is world famous and it’s beautiful, but I think a lot of people would prefer to see it from the air.”
Bill Medeiros, Hāna resident and executive assistant to the mayor said the flight will bring more tourists to the East Maui area, and specifically to the Travaasa property, which he noted is the largest employer of our local people.
“It also gives local people an opportunity to fly again instead of driving four and a half hours round trip, they can do the round trip now in about 30 minutes.”
On behalf of the Maui Visitor’s Bureau, Keli’i Brown said he’s thrilled and excited about the new service and partnership.
“We certainly consider Hāna our ninth island. We’ve done over the years all that we can to really promote this area and will continue to do so. It’s such an important part of our visitor mix, and we look forward to promoting all of the very beautiful aspects of this very small town–the people, the ‘ohana feel. Hāna is truly special.”