Sea Link Files Request to Stop Molokaʻi to Maui Ferry Service
*This story has been updated to reflect commentary from airline executives.
Sea Link of Hawaiʻi, the ferry that runs between Maui and Molokaʻi filed a request with the Public Utilities Commission to stop operations.
The company wants to surrender its certificate that allows it to operate the inter-island ferry, citing a significant drop in ridership, which company executives attributed to competing lower fares from airlines.
The ferry currently offers fares of $62.04 for a one way ticket, while competing airlines that are operating with an annual subsidy, were offering fares as low as $36 between the islands in 2016.
According to the docket, the EAS Reports that Makani Kai Airlines receives an annual subsidy of $710,656 for the four year period from June 12, 2014 to May 31, 2018, totaling $2.8 million; and Mokulele Airlines receives an annual subsidy of $417,310 for the four year period from July 3, 2013 to Sept. 30, 2017, totaling $1.6 million.
Company executives with Mokulele Airlines noted that the numbers were factual “if 100% of all the flights are completed,” however, they noted that there is no subsidized service to the Molokaʻi Kaunakakai airport. Airline executives further stated that Makani Kai is subsidized to fly to Kalaupapa, and the subsidy that Mokulele receives is for Waimea on the Big Island.
“The money is paid per departure to and from those airports only,” airline executives told Maui Now, saying they disagree that the flights from Kalaupapa or Waimea “two islands away” are the root cause of the ferry’s financial troubles.
In the docket, attorneys for the company noted a reduction in ridership from 1,691 total passengers in January 2016 to 859 total passengers in July 2016.
“Sea Link further believes that ridership will continue to stagnate or decrease further, and raising passenger fares/charges will only worsen the situation – which will cause Sea Link to continue operating at a loss or incur even further losses,” counsel for Sea Link stated in the filing.
The company reported a net operating loss of $108,235 in 2013 and $288,068 in 2014.
Sea Link currently provides ferry service between Lahaina, Maui and Kaunakakai, Molokaʻi.
The deadline for comment passed yesterday.
The PUC will now review comments to determine a course of action moving forward.