An Oahu company is making it more affordable to fly to Molokai’s isolated settlement of Kalaupapa.
Makani Kai Air Charters held a blessing ceremony at Kalaupapa Airport this morning to launch its air service between Honolulu and Kalaupapa.
The company will use two Cessna Grand Caravans to fly the route, which includes twice daily service from Honolulu six days a week and one round trip on Sundays.
The Federal Department of Transportation awarded Makani Kai the contract in December and the company will receive Essential Air Service (EAS) subsidies of nearly $1 million per year for the next two years.
The Essential Air Service (EAS) program guarantees that small communities that were served by certificated air carriers before deregulation maintain a minimal level of scheduled air service.
According to Richard Schuman, owner of Makani Kai Air Charters, a roundtrip from Kalaupapa to ‘topside’ (anyplace on Molokai outside or above the Kalaupapa Peninsula) was just over $500 in the past.
Makani Kai’s cost for the round trip flight is $154.56. Kalaupapa residents will pay $77.28 round trip.
“It’s going to make a world of difference to the people who live and work at the settlement,” says Mark Miller, State Department of Health administrator for Kalaupapa. “It will give many of us the ability to travel again and lift a feeling of isolation that so many of the residents have felt for a long time.”
Kalaupapa resident Ivy Kahilihiwa, 74, says she’s excited about the new air service.
“I travel to Oahu about four to five times a year for medical treatment and pleasure,” says Kahilihiwa, who arrived in Kalaupapa from Kauai in 1956 after contracting Hansen’s Disease. “Its cheaper now so I’ll be able to travel more often.”
Photo: Stacy Yuen Hernandez