HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Residents and tourists can now travel more easily between Kalaupapa and Honolulu. After a visit from senator Daniel Inouye in 2010 to Kalaupapa, the small airport was selected to receive federally subsidized carrier service through Makani Kai Charters.
Richard Schuman, owner of Makani Kai Charters says they were allotted for 60 landings a week, providing twice daily service from Honolulu six days a week and one round trip on Sundays.
Up until the contract was awarded, prices on a competitive carrier had risen to nearly five hundred dollars round trip, just from Kalaupapa to the Molokai airport. A trip that residents say took only eight minutes.
Many of the elder residents would have to pay the exorbitant price who otherwise couldn't travel along the only other route, a two-thousand foot hike up a mountain path.
Mark Miller, Kalaupapa's administrator described the sense of desperation for may residents, "There is a feeling down here of imprisonment almost. With these new fares and the freedom to travel just like anyone else it's like a new day for Kalaupapa."
Makani Kai's cost for the round trip flight from Kalaupapa to Molokai airport is $154.56. From Kalaupapa to Honolulu roundtrip is $276.16. But the 107 Kalaupapa residents also receive an additional 50 percent discount.
The number of former Hansen's disease patients still living in the historic settlement is down to seventeen. Kalaupapa's health care supervisor, Carol Franko, says the new flights mean more family time for them and everyone else living in the settlement, "It's an environment that we know we want to share with our loved ones and we also want to have the patients have their loved ones come back and forth and share it with them."