WAILUKU, Maui — Hawaiian Airlines is ending service between Honolulu and the rural islands of Molokai and Lanai in Maui County.
Citing significant cost and an interisland travel market that has been limited by restrictions due to the pandemic, Hawaiian Airlines said it will terminate its ‘Ohana by Hawaiian service to the two islands, The Maui News reported Friday.
“With our focus on rebuilding and restoring our mainline interisland, North America and international service, we cannot responsibly justify incurring the startup costs and weakening our financial outlook,” Hawaiian Airlines President and CEO Peter Ingram said in a statement. “We do this as stewards of our company, with a firm eye on ensuring that Hawaiian Airlines is positioned to not only survive but thrive as we exit the pandemic.”
Travel to Hawaii has increased as pandemic restrictions have eased. Hawaiian Airlines announced this week that it has 400 open positions and is offering a $2,000 bonus for many positions on Maui, where the need for workers is high.
“While we have seen a strong recovery for our North America routes, Neighbor Island and international demand continues to be suppressed by travel restrictions,” Hawaiian Airlines spokesperson Alex Da Silva said.
The Ohana service offered up to 30 flights daily before the pandemic, which put a financial strain on the company. “We maintained it to provide a reliable air transportation option to Molokai and Lanai,” Da Silva said.
“That strain was intensified during the pandemic with the severe drop in travel, especially neighbor island travel, caused by quarantine and pre-travel testing requirements,” he added.
Hawaiian Airlines has begun moving its turboprop aircraft to the mainland for storage, maintenance and sale. The company said it is lending some ground support equipment to Mokulele Airlines.
“This outcome is a disappointment not only for all of us, but for the communities that we hold dear on Molokai and Lanai,” Hawaiian Airlines’ Ingram said. “But it is important to make some difficult decisions in order to preserve our long-term sustainability.”
The Ohana service was first suspended in January amid pandemic struggles. The service to Molokai and Lanai was the only option for residents who use wheelchairs or those needing assistance to travel, said state Rep. Lynn DeCoite, who represents the two islands.
“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,” DeCoite said in a statement.
Mokulele Airlines, now the only air option for the two islands, is “prepared to immediately bring more flights to Molokai and Lanai as the demand is needed,” said Keith Sisson, Mokulele chief of staff.