Island Air has signed a deal to purchase two Bombardier turbprop aircraft, with an option to buy four more, renewing its fleet for the second time in a year.
Toronto-based Bombardier, the only company in the world that makes both planes and trains, will be selling Island Air Q400 NextGen turboprops with a dual-class, 71-seat configuration.
Last summer as Lanai investor Larry Ellison was settling in a new owner of Island Air, the airline retired its aging fleet, acquiring newer ATR turboprops. Hawaiian Airlines recently launched its own Ohana division using a different model of aircraft from the same manufacturer, affiliated with Airbus.
Now the company is going to spend millions acquiring new planes, an unusual move for a small regional carrier given the affordability of leasing used aircraft. Each aircraft will cost about $30 million before discounts, which are common in the aircraft industry.
The press release from Bombardier, through which the deal became known in Hawaii, included a quote from billionaire Larry Ellison, who is an avid pilot: "My experience with Bombardier over the years has been nothing but positive."
Island Air has five roundtrips a day between Honolulu and Lanai, providing most of the air connections for guests at Larry Ellison's two Four Seasons resorts on the island. He bought the carrier to improve the last leg of his guests' trips to their holidays on Lanai.
The airline stopped flying to Molokai after Hawaiian's Ohana subsidiary launched service there, but still has flights to Lanai and Molokai. Two new aircraft would upgrade the existing network. Six would allow expansion, though the smaller passenger cabin would likely restrict any direct competition with Hawaiian to routes and times of day when Hawaiian has trouble filling its larger jets.