HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Among the hardest hit industries in light of the pandemic here in Hawaii is the travel are aviation businesses.
As a result, two small local airlines are joining forces.
Mokulele is merging operations with Makani Kai. Ultimately, the owners of both airlines feel this will mean big things for inter islands travel: Better prices and options for their customers.
Both companies were hit hard by the travel lockdown.
Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, Mokulele, which is owned by Southern Airways, had a daily flight count of 108 in Hawaii before they had to make drastic changes to stay operational.
“We cut that schedule exactly in half so we went to a 54 flights per day schedule and we maintained service to every single one of our nine cities throughout the islands," Stan Little, Chairman and CEO of Mokulele Airlines, said.
Richard Schuman owns Makani Kai Air as well as Magnum Helicopters. Both businesses took a big hit when tourism grinded to a halt.
“That pretty much shut my industry right off. I went from a lot of flights to no flights at all,” Schuman said.
He’s confident the merger was the right move for everyone.
“I think we are stronger together. We fly similar planes, similar routes, similar pricing, similar service. So we both feel we can offer better service to the local people, especially to the smaller airports that don’t get serviced by other airlines," Schuman said.
The merger will allow for a brand new route — a direct flight from Honolulu to Lanai.
Immediately, the only changes customers will notice is that Makani Kai flights will now be booked through Mokulele’s distribution channels.
Mokulele wasn’t forced to layoff or furlough employees during the travel quarantine, but that wasn’t the case for Makani Kai. The hope is that as the inter-island quarantine is lifted on June 16 and demand grows, the new company can bring back some of those team members.
“So we have got to be able to weather this storm and we can weather this storm so much better together and when we all come out on the other side, it will be a lot better product for the people of the smaller islands," Little said.
That new non stop lanai route isn’t available just yet but, the first flight is June 28. Bookings are being accepted as early as Monday.