2 carriers seek Waimea-Kohala Airport contract

  • A Mokulele airplane departs from Waimea earlier this year. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

KAILUA-KONA — In response to a federal request for proposals from the U.S. Department of Transportation, two air carriers are vying to offer federally subsidized flights out of the Waimea-Kohala Airport.

Mokulele Airlines and Makani Kai Air have both submitted proposals outlining their plans to offer flights between Hawaii Island and Maui.

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The Department of Transportation in October issued an order seeking proposals from air carriers who were interested in offering Essential Air Service at the Waimea-Kohala Airport. Essential Air Service is a federal program designed to guarantee air service to small communities throughout the country.

The current contract with Mokulele Flight Service, which does business as Mokulele Airlines, came out of an order issued in April, when DOT chose that airline to provide Essential Air Service at the airport for a one-year period from July 1 of this year to June 30, 2019. Under that agreement, Mokulele would provide the community with 12 nonstop roundtrips a week to Kahului Airport in Maui at an annual subsidy rate of $397,457.

Mokulele was also the chosen Essential Air Service provider for the previous contract that spanned October 2013 to September 2017.

Mokulele in its proposal for the new contract, proposed to continue running two direct roundtrips daily between Waimea and Kahului, Maui. Unsubsidized continuing service would give passengers the opportunity to continue on to Molokai and Honolulu.

Mokulele proposed a subsidy of $389,783, which represents the deficit between the company’s revenue and expenses incurred by running the service.

The company touted its history of operations in the community and feedback it has received from customers.

It also pointed to its ability to offer affordable fares while continually reducing the subsidy requested from the feds.

Makani Kai Air, a subsidiary of Schuman Aviation Co., meanwhile is proposing a lower $200,000 annual subsidy for 12 weekly nonstop roundtrips between the Waimea-Kohala Airport and Kahului, Maui.

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That company argued it has “a distinct advantage” over the competition in regards to airfare cost. Although it didn’t explicitly list a proposed airfare for the service, it says it “intends to offer a lower airfare on that same route” and set a flat rate that remains constant day-to-day. The company also says its charge for call-in reservations and baggage fees are also lower than Mokulele.

Both companies propose using nine-seat Cessna Grand Caravan aircraft for their flights.