Mokulele Airlines and Makani Kai announce merger

  • Passengers board a Mokulele flight at the Waimea-Kohala Airport. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

Hawaii’s two largest commuter airlines on Wednesday announced that they will merge operations this month. The merger solidifies the health of the commuter airline industry in the state for the long-term recovery from the effects of the coronavirus.

Makani Kai Airlines was founded by Richard Schuman, a fourth generation Hawaii resident whose great grandfather immigrated from Germany in 1893. The elder Schuman founded Schuman Carriage Company, Hawaii’s largest automobile dealership for nearly 100 years. Over a century later, Richard Schuman started Schuman Aviation, the parent company of Makani Kai Air, along with Magnum Helicopters and Hawaii Aviation Services, which are not a part of the Mokulele merger.

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“I was worried about the commuter industry not being there for the Hawaiian people once the COVID crisis ends,” said Richard Schuman. “I reached out to Mokulele CEO Stan Little and suggested that maybe we can better serve the Hawaiian people if we team up and do it together.”

The announcement of the merger comes on the heels of Gov. David Ige’s announcement that Hawaii’s 14-day quarantine for inter-island travelers will end on June 16.

“In the last two months, we at Mokulele have provided uninterrupted transportation for essential workers, flown free medical supplies for hospitals and first responders, donated free shipping for almost 70,000 pounds of groceries to the people of Molokai, and catered a hot meal for the residents at Kalaupapa, who have been on lock-down longer than any of us,” said Stan Little, CEO of Mokulele.

“When we heard Richard’s proposal to merge our companies, we knew it would lead to our being stronger together, plus ensure that we can continue to provide these types of programs for the people of Hawaii when called upon in the future.”

The first benefit for the Hawaiian people will be the combined airline’s new nonstop route between Honolulu and Lanai City, perhaps the first new U.S. airline route announced since the COVID-19 lockdowns began in March.

“We know that in the age of COVID, people want to be on smaller aircraft, with less personal contact, and the ability to bypass crowded terminals and TSA lines. Truly, it is more important than ever to fly smaller, fly smarter, fly safer,” said Schuman.

Both airlines will operate flights during the integration period, which is expected to last through the fall.

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The only immediate change noticeable to the public will be that Makani Kai’s flights will now be sold exclusively through Mokulele’s distribution channels.

Schuman has been named Executive Vice President of Hawaiian Operations for the combined entity and will oversee all operations in the state.

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