Maui Business

Hawaiian Airlines Ends ‘Ohana by Hawaiian Service

May 27, 2021, 3:46 PM HST
* Updated May 28, 6:29 PM
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‘Ohana by Hawaiian today announced it will be expanding its route network for the summer to include Maui, connecting more islands and offering residents and visitors more options and more flexibility for neighbor island travel. (Photo Credit: Hawaiian Airlines)

Hawaiian Airlines will not restart its ‘Ohana by Hawaiian passenger service between Honolulu and Moloka‘i and Lāna‘i as well as its statewide ATR freighter cargo service.

In an announcement today, Peter Ingram, president and CEO at Hawaiian Airlines said, “This is a heartbreaking decision, particularly for those of us who were involved in launching the business in 2014. We took a hard look at the service and could not identify a way to restart and sustainably operate.”

The severe decline in Neighbor Island travel demand resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and state and county quarantine measures triggered a labor provision that led to the temporary suspension of passenger and cargo flights.

Freighter service with ATR 72 aircraft was suspended in November 2020 and passenger service with ATR 42 aircraft was halted Jan. 14. Service between Honolulu and Kapalua was suspended in March 2020. Hawaiian announced the decision to permanently end its ‘Ohana by Hawaiian service following an in-depth assessment of the overall operation and its long-term viability.

“Hawaiian would have incurred significant costs and faced numerous obstacles in restarting service with its current fleet of aircraft. The soonest flights could have resumed was at the end of this year,” according to the company announcement.

‘Ohana by Hawaiian was operated by Idaho-based Empire Airlines as a third-party feeder carrier. When service was at its peak, Empire employed 82 pilots, flight attendants and maintenance personnel in the state of Hawai‘i as well as 15 at its home base in Idaho. All 97 employees were dedicated to the ‘Ohana operation.

Contractor Worldwide Flight Services employed a staff of 28 to provide ground handling services. All other ‘Ohana by Hawaiian operations were managed by Hawaiian employees, who will be reassigned to other areas of the company, according to the announcement.

Hawaiian has begun moving its ATR fleet to the US mainland for storage and eventual sale. The company lent some of its ground support equipment to Mokulele Airlines, which is providing service between Honolulu and Moloka‘i and Lāna‘i.

“We thank the communities of Moloka‘i and Lāna‘i for their support of ‘Ohana by Hawaiian,” said Ingram. “We will continue to explore opportunities to return to and to reconnect the islands as Hawai‘i’s carrier.”

Hawaiian launched ‘Ohana by Hawaiian flights in the spring of 2014, followed by all-cargo service in the summer of 2018.

Mayor Victorino Statement:

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Upon learning the news, Maui Mayor Michael Victorino said, “First, I’d like to thank Hawaiian Airlines for its years of service to Molokai and Lāna‘i. Sadly, pandemic-related financial hardship and difficulty in hiring essential personnel led to this difficult decision. Hawaiian Airlines has been a good partner for the neighbor islands, and I’d like to believe the airline can return someday in the future. 

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“Fortunately, Mokulele Airlines will continue to serve both islands; Lāna‘i can also rely on Expeditions Ferry service. Representative Lynn DeCoite and I have discussed our shared concerns about the loss of medical transport to, and from, Honolulu for patients who require special seating or the use of boarding ramps for mobility reasons. We understand that Mokulele has plans to expand to larger aircraft to compensate for the loss of lift, and we appreciate their concern for the people of Lāna‘i and Molokai. We will continue to research alternatives for those with special travel needs,” he said.

Rep. DeCoite Reaction:

State Representative Lynn DeCoite (D- Moloka‘i, Lana‘i and East Maui) reacted to the news saying:

“The ‘Ohana by Hawaiian service to Moloka‘i and Lana’i has been sorely missed since they suspended operations in January.   For years they were the only option for our residents that are in wheelchairs or those needing physical assistance to be able to travel off island.  While I am grateful that they served our communities for the past six years, even to their economic detriment, I am sad to hear today’s announcement. 

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With the lifting of some COVID-19 regulations and the start of the inter-county vaccine passport for our local residents, ensuring viable travel options for Moloka‘i and Lāna‘i residents is paramount.  So many of us from Moloka‘i and Lāna‘i need to travel for basic and advanced medical care.  We want to see our families on neighbor islands and even on the mainland.  I know and understand this very well.  Hawaiian Airlines announcement is disappointing, while options are minimal, we do want to get island hopping again.  Mahalo to ‘Ohana by Hawaiian and Hawaiian Airlines for all that you have done for us,”  said Rep. Lynn DeCoite.

Mokulele Airlines Response:

Keith Sisson, Mokulele Chief of Staff responded to the news from fellow air carrier, ‘Ohana by Hawaiian saying, “Even prior to today’s announcement by Hawaiian Airlines, Mokulele had committed to bringing four additional aircraft online in Hawaiʻi by late summer. We are prepared to immediately bring more flights to Molokaʻi and Lāna‘i as the demand is needed, beginning with the addition of multiple daily flights that have been added to our June 1 schedule. This brings our peak-day departure to 134 statewide.”

Sisson said Mokulele remains committed to its pledge “of never having a sold-out a day on Molokaʻi and Lāna‘i.” He said, “We constantly add flights throughout the week to meet increased demand, we just the morning added two additional flights to Molokaʻi on Memorial Day”

“We are perhaps the only airline in the world that did not increase its fares for the holiday weekend,” Sisson noted, saying, “People traveling to Molokaʻi or Lāna‘i are paying the same fares as they would on any other day of the year. We are committed to serving the neighbor-islands with the same level of safety, reliability, and affordability as they received for many years from ʻOhana by Hawaiian.”

“We thank Hawaiian Airlines for their support during the pandemic, and we hope to work even more closely with them in the future to provide the residents of these islands with the over the ocean connectivity to which they are accustomed,” said Sisson.

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