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Island Air to cease service Saturday

Updated: 
November 9, 2017 - 5:30pm

KAILUA-KONA — Island Air said Thursday it will cease interisland service Saturday, having exhausted all options to remain flying.

“It is with a heavy heart that I must inform all of you that tomorrow — Friday, the 10th of November — will be the last day for Island Air to be in service,” CEO David Uchiyama said in an email to employees. “We have exhausted all options that would allow us to continue, and we have not been able to solidify any of those option(s) within the time frame needed.

“We will need to work through this day with our heads held high knowing that we did all that we could do to provide an affordable alternative to interisland travel for our islands.”

Island Air — the state’s second largest airline — filed for bankruptcy protection on Oct. 16 after its aircraft lessor, Ireland-based Elix Assets 8 Ltd., attempted to repossess the company’s three remaining Q400 aircraft for nonpayment. Island Air said it had lost money every quarter for the past 4 1/2 years.

The airline, which flew interisland routes for 37 years, has 423 employees across the state, Russell Pang, the company’s spokesman, said via email late Thursday afternoon to West Hawaii Today.

When the airline resumed operations to Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport in April 2016 following a four-year hiatus, some 25 employees were added. Pang said Thursday that the number of people employed in Kona had likely not changed.

Island Air flew six daily round-trip flights between Kona and Honolulu. The airline did not service Hilo International Airport, he said.

Pang told West Hawaii Today that the company will not honor tickets for flights after Friday, adding that passengers must make alternative arrangements for interisland transportation.

“Island Air is in contact with the other interisland carriers to request that they accommodate ticketed passengers, but the final decision will be up to each individual airline,” Pang said via email. “Ticketed passengers should contact their travel agents or credit card companies to inquire about their refund policies. Those who paid by cash or check may file a claim in bankruptcy court, however, such a filing does not guarantee a refund.”

Attorney Thomas Kreller, who represents Elix 8 and Wells Fargo Bank Northwest, the trustee for the aircraft lessor, said during earlier bankruptcy hearings that Island Air had “taken advantage of” the lessors.

“I want to thank Island Air for its decades of service to our communities. For 37 years the company and its employees have played a big role in connecting island families and supporting our business community,” Gov. David Ige said in a press release Thursday. “The closure will have a tremendous effect on 400 employees and their families, and the state will be working with Island Air to help the employees apply for unemployment insurance and provide assistance with job searches and training opportunities.”

The Hawaii Department of Transportation said it was notified Thursday that the airline would make its last scheduled flight Friday night.

“HDOT will work with Island Air on the logistics of ceasing its operations at Hawaii’s airports,” said Ross Higashi, HDOT deputy director, airports division, in a statement.

News that Island Air will cease interisland operations comes in the wake of Southwest Airlines Co. recently announcing plans to start flying to Hawaii as early as next year. On Thursday, Bloomberg News reported that the company is looking at adding flights between islands along with its trans-Pacific routes.

With Island Air ceasing operations, interisland service to and from Kona will be available via Hawaiian Airlines and Kona-based Mokulele, which offers about 120 flights daily between the islands.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser and Bloomberg News contributed to this report.

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