Kalaupapa residents lobby for lower airfares

Photo courtesy Kalaupapa National Historical Park.
Photo courtesy Kalaupapa National Historical Park.

By Jim Mendoza - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - On the island of Molokai, Kalaupapa is known for its remoteness. But these days it's also known for extremely high air fares.

"Four hundred something roundtrip to Molokai," Kalaupapa resident Gloria Lutu Marks said.

That's the ticket price Marks and other Kalaupapa residents pay to fly from Kalaupapa to Molokai airport.

It comes out to about $250 one way without leaving the island.

"That's only one six-minute ride. Six minutes!" Kalaupapa resident Clarence Kahilihiwa said.

The Hansen's disease patients fly out of Kalauapapa for medical visits and other trips.

They say the ticket price is ridiculous.

"I have to pay whether I like it or not," Marks said.

Pacific Wings services Kalaupapa. Last year it cut other routes and raised a roundtrip fare between Kalaupapa and Molokai airport from $60 to nearly $500.

But Hawaii's Congressional delegation is stepping in. U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye announced Thursday the U.S. Transportation Department will start a bidding process.

"I can assure you that when the new bid comes out the patients will have airfare that's reasonable and affordable," he said.

Makani Kai Air Charters flies to Kalaupapa occasionally. Owner Richard Schuman wants to take on the daily service.

"I own my own two planes here. And Makani Kai Helicopters, Makani Kai Charters, we've been offering very dependable service to the people of Hawaii for quite a while now," he said.

The carrier that gets the winning bid will get an Essential Air Service subsidy from the federal government. It will cover up to ninety percent of the ticket price and cut the price for passengers.

"Anything lower. We are all going to be appreciative," Marks said.

The airline will have to provide two flights from Kalaupapa six days a week.  Marks and her neighbors said they can breathe easier now that relief is on the way.

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