Hawaiian Airlines said Wednesday it will discontinue ‘Ohana by Hawaiian passenger service between Honolulu and both Molokai and Lanai next week. This move will suspend all operations by the interisland carrier.
‘Ohana by Hawaiian’s exit from these markets takes effect on Jan. 14 and leaves Mokulele Airlines, which operates nine-seat turboprops, the only airline flying to both Molokai and Lanai.
The suspension of air service is expected to result in more than 60 layoffs, according to a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) notice filed by Empire Airlines on Dec.1. The action is expected to affect 33 pilots, 17 mechanics, 12 flight attendants and two store clerks.
Hawaiian had previously said it planned to suspend both routes on Nov. 1 because pandemic-induced low travel demand triggered a provision in the airline’s pilot contract restricting the carrier from providing ‘Ohana by Hawaiian service.The contract provision prevented Hawaiian from offering ‘Ohana by Hawaiian flights – which are operated with turboprop aircraft by Empire Airlines as a third-party feeder carrier – when interisland Boeing 717 and Airbus A321neo jet flights operated by Hawaiian’s pilots are severely reduced.
However, the routes got a reprieve when the U.S. Department of Transportation told the airline that in spite of the contractual restrictions, Molokai and Lanai remain covered under the DOT’s Essential Air Service program and flights must be maintained at a minimum for the 90-day notice period required under that program.
Hawaiian Airlines Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Jon Snook said in a letter to employees Wednesday that the DOT has since ruled that essential service to Molokai and Lanai will be maintained by Mokulele.
“For every one of us, it has been an honor and a privilege to serve these communities —and the travel needs of visitors and kamaaina alike — since 2014,” Snook said in his letter. “It is unclear when demand will recover sufficiently to allow us to return to Molokai, Lanai , or Kapalua in West Maui, or to reinstate all-cargo Neighbor Island service.”
Hawaiian, which reduced its workforce by nearly 2,500 employees in October, when the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Payroll Support Program (PSP) expired, suspended ‘Ohana by Hawaiian’s cargo-service in November and service between HNL and Kapalua (JHM) in West Maui was suspended in March.
Hawaiian said in statement that it launched ‘Ohana by Hawaiian flights with ATR-42 turboprop aircraft in the spring of 2014, followed by all-cargo service with ATR-72 aircraft in the summer of 2018.