By Howard Dicus
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Island Air is moving rapidly to lease aircraft that carry several times more passengers than its modest current fleet of Dash 8 turboprops, a potentially significant development for the interisland airline business.
After announcing Friday it was leasing six ATR-72-212s that seat 78, the airline said over the weekend it would also bridge the gap by leasing a 33-seat Saab 340B from Anchorage, Alaska-based Peninsula Airways.
The PenAir deal is a "wet lease," which means that pilots come as part of the package, eliminating the need for costly and time-consuming training on an aircraft that will be in use only temporarily.
Three ATR planes are scheduled for delivery this year and three more in 2013. They have twice the capacity of Island Air's Dash 8-100s, which seat 37.
"The timing is right," said Island Air Chairman Charles Willis.
Island Air serves most airports on neighbor islands, including Lanai and Molokai, has connecting flights between neighbor islands that other carriers don't offer, and has popular service from Honolulu directly to West Maui's little Kapalua airport.
CEO Lesley Kaneshiro said the airline has hired seven more pilots and expect to have more job openings going forward.
Island Air has code share agreements with Hawaiian Airlines, go!Mokulele, United Airlines and Continental Airlines.