Molokai residents on edge as Hawaiian Air suspends direct flights to Maui

Molokai residents on edge as Hawaiian Air suspends direct flights to Maui
Updated: Sep. 12, 2017 at 11:16 PM HST
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HO'OLEHUA, MOLOKAI (HAWAIINEWSNOW) - Beginning Sept. 15th, Hawaiian Airlines will temporarily suspend its direct flight from Molokai to Maui while its aircraft undergoes maintenance.

The news is leaving some residents on the Friendly Isle on edge.

"With your blessings and guidance, Ohana, please don't shut us out," said Molokai resident Leilani Wallace. "Keep us in your guys' hearts and service us."

A spokesperson for Hawaiian Air said the new schedule will retain two Molokai-Honolulu flights in addition to the one-stop flight between Molokai and Maui, through Honolulu.

The fare will remain the same, but state Representative Lynn DeCoite says it's still an uncomfortable change.

"You're really going to do that to this island?" Decoite said. "I think that's unacceptable."

Decoite says many of Molokai's kupuna rely on the direct flight to Maui for medical appointments.

She says Mokulele and Makani Kai airlines don't have wheelchair accessibility like Hawaiian Air and that the ferry service that linked Molokai and Maui for nearly three decades, was discontinued last year.

"Is it of the liking of the community or have they grown to say that the airlines is enough?" DeCoite said. "I don't believe that's true because we're having this problem right now with the airlines on having options."

Options is a luxury that the Friendly Isle doesn't have.

The population of just over 7,000 depends on tourism, but the community has rejected past developments.

Molokai now has the highest unemployment rate of any island, more than twice the state average.

"There's no job creation here," DeCoite said. "People are not going to be flying back and forth if there's nothing to lure them here."

Decoite sees the possible sale of Molokai Ranch, listed for $260 million dollars, as a turning point with jobs and transportation in the balance.

"We're going to have to develop," she said. "And it's going to have to be a development I don't think many will like."

Hawaiian Airlines acknowledged the community's concerns and will host a meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 13th at the Mitchell Pauole Center from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. to discuss the schedule changes.

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