Mokulele Airlines, which began the first commercial operation out of Kalaeloa Airport with great fanfare just over two years ago, has pulled the plug on the short-lived experiment after continuing losses.
The state’s third-largest airline, which operates nine-seat Cessna Grand Caravan turboprops, operated its last flight out of the West Oahu airport on Sept. 6. At the time it shut down, the airline was flying four flights a day from Kalaeloa to Hoolehua, Molokai, with a connection to Kahului, Maui, along with the return legs of those flights.
“I wish we hadn’t lost money every month,” Mokulele CEO Ron Hansen said today. “If we started to show an improvement we would have kept it going but there didn’t seem to be any indications it was going to change. I don’t really have any regrets about trying to fly from there, but we lost over six figures at Kalaeloa in just over two years. Flying around empty airplanes is not cheap.”
Mokulele still operates out of Honolulu International Airport as well as seven other airports around the state: Kona and Kamuela/Waimea on Hawaii island; Kapalua, Hana and Kahului on Maui; and Hoolehua and Kalaupapa on Molokai.
In addition, Mokulele began operating in May between Imperial County Airport near El Centro, Calif., and Los Angeles under a two-year federally subsidized Essential Air Service Contract and will begin service Oct. 7 between Santa Maria, Calif., and Los Angeles under a community-subsidized contract in which normal airport expenses are being waived.
Hansen purchased the Kona-based carrier from go! parent Mesa Air Group Inc. in November 2011 and began service on July 1, 2014, from Kalaeloa, which was the former Barbers Point Navel Air Station.
“We’ve been profitable for the nearly five years since I owned the company, but Kalaeloa was lowering the profits,” Hansen said.