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U.S. to subsidize air service to Kalaupapa

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    The U.S. Department of Transportation will underwrite more than 60% of airfares for the community's residents; one airline executive is critical of the plan.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has stepped in to subsidize air service to and from Kalaupapa, Molokai, an isolated peninsula where people afflicted with Hansen’s disease live and federal officials operate a national park.

But an executive with a small airline said the plan was an attempt to put him out of service at Kalaupapa.

“I’ve got a four-year investment here,” said Greg Kahlstorf, chief executive officer of Pacific Wings.

Kahlstorf acknowledged that his airline charges $250 for a one-way flight between Honolulu and Kalaupapa. But he questioned why the department was intervening when most staying at Kalaupapa were already receiving a state or federal air travel subsidy either as patients or workers.

Department spokesman Bill Moseley said federal transportation officials are moving ahead with their plan for Kalaupapa to ensure the unique needs of the community are met.

“We will shortly be soliciting proposals from carriers interested in serving the critical needs of this community as well as seeking the community’s views on any proposals,” Moseley said.

The department said it plans to subsidize service by more than 60 percent.

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