Interisland carriers Mokulele Airlines and Island Air announced plans to expand service between Honolulu and Kapalua last week, adding a total of six new daily flights to the West Maui airport, located about five miles north of the Kaanapali Beach Resort.
Kailua-Kona-based Mokulele Airlines, which shelved its Honolulu-Kapalua service more than three years ago, said it will begin offering four daily flights on the route July 1.
“It’s just an opportunity that was being missed,” said Mokulele CEO Ron Hansen. “And it’s been my goal since I took over the airline to start service out there.”
Mesa Air Group sold Mokulele Airlines to Transpac Aviation last fall, ending a joint venture between Mokulele and Mesa’s interisland carrier Go dating back to October 2009.
Expansion has been Hansen’s primary goal since the ownership change.
“We’ve increased our employee roster by about 10%,” he said. “It’s not a big number, but when you consider the percentage, it’s significant. I don’t think there are a whole lot of companies in Hawaii or in the country that have added 10% in the last six months.”
Hansen said Mokulele will also add a fifth nine-seat Cesna Grand Caravan 208 next month, enabling the company to boost its current total of 46 daily flights to more than 60 in July. The airline began daily flights to Lanai this April and now offers service to Oahu, Maui, the Big Island of Hawaii and Molokai.
“We’re not trying to compete with Hawaiian or even Go,” Hansen said. “We don’t operate in competition on any of those routes. Our market is the short hauls.”
Mokulele is, however, a competitor of Island Air, which announced its intention to add two daily flights beginning on June 15 between Honolulu and Kapalua just two days after Mokulele revealed its West Maui expansion.
“In mid-April we filed additional service for Kapalua based on improving market performance,” Island Air CEO Lesley Kaneshiro said in a statement. “The West Maui traveling community has been solid, and we’ve been anticipating growth for quite some time.”
The new service will increase Island Air’s total number of daily flights between Honolulu and Kapalua to 12, all of which will be operated with a 37-passenger DeHavilland Dash 8 aircraft.
Both Mokulele and Island Air flights are flown at lower altitudes than service provided on Go and Hawaiian’s jet engine aircraft, providing passengers with a much more intimate view of Hawaii’s natural beauty.
“Every flight is really a sightseeing flight on Mokulele,” Hansen said, noting that all of his company’s interisland flights are operated between 5,000 and 10,000 feet. “Every seat is in front of a window, so it’s just an unbelievable opportunity to take pictures.”
Hansen is also working to expand on Mokulele’s lone codeshare agreement with Go.
“We’re talking with a lot of large airlines,” he said. “And we’re hoping to have more agreements in the next few months.”