LANAI (HAWAIINEWSNOW) - The island of Lanai will lose half of its daily airline flights because Island Air is pulling out of that market.
In briefings with government officials, Island Air executives have said the small Lanai market cannot support two airlines and that was even before both Lanai resorts closed down last year for renovations.
Island Air is the second-largest air carrier in the state, behind Hawaiian Airlines which controls nearly 90 percent of the inter-island market and operates a smaller airline, Ohana by Hawaiian, which serves Lanai.
Island Air already reduced staff by 20 percent last year, after reporting an operating loss of more than $21 million.
"I was hoping that Island Air would stay there as a two-carrier. I do understand the financial responsibility of a carrier with not enough people using passenger carriers, using the airline, said state Rep. Lynn DeCoite, (D) Lanai, Molokai, Paia. "It's the people of Lanai that are being shortchanged."
DeCoite worries that residents will be inconvenienced by losing Island Air's four daily flights to and from the island, because they rely on flights to Maui and Lanai for shopping, business and medical appointments.
"It does put a strain. You're wanting to go back home, especially if you're doing treatment, whether it be cancer treatment and so forth. You're not feeling good. You want to go home," DeCoite said.
Ohana By Hawaiian, which has four daily flights to and from Lanai, said it's too early to say if the airline will increase flights.
"We remain committed to the route and will continue to support it with an appropriate level of service for both visitors and kamaaina," said Ann Botticelli, a spokeswoman for Hawaiian Airlines.
Eleven Lanai-based Island Air staff will be offered the opportunity to transfer elsewhere in the company when service to the island ends March 31, the company said.
Another dozen or so people who drive buses for Lanai landowner Pulama Company are also being laid off, as Four Seasons takes over ground transportation operations, which it runs at its other resorts.
A special job fair was held Wednesday for the 20 or so airline and bus employees being put out of work, so they can apply for roughly 30 open positions at the Four Seasons resort on Lanai, according to Lori Holland, a Four Seasons spokeswoman.
The Four Seasons operates the resort on Lanai that just re-opened last month after a year's worth of renovations.
"We don't think this (Island Air's departure from Lanai) will have a major impact on our business," Holland said.
Holland said there are plenty of ways for its guests to travel to the island, including by air on Ohana by Hawaiian.
Other resort guests charter their own planes to get to the island, Holland said. There is also ferry service from Maui with five crossings a day, she said.