Airline ‘looking at’ more Maui flights

Current and future Hawaiian Airlines CEOs provide update to Maui Chamber of Commerce

Peter Ingram, executive vice president and chief commercial officer of Hawaiian Airlines, chats with Jeanne Skog, former Maui Economic Development Board president and chief executive officer, following a Maui Chamber of Commerce luncheon. On March 1, Ingram will take the place of current Hawaiian Air President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Dunkerley, who is retiring. The Maui News / MELISSA TANJI photo

KAHULUI — Hawaiian Airlines is adding more flights to Kapalua, and an executive said that the airline is “constantly looking at” bringing back a direct flight between Maui and Las Vegas.

Outgoing Hawaiian Airlines President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Dunkerley and his replacement, Peter Ingram, the carrier’s current executive vice president and chief commercial officer, gave updates on the airline’s services at the annual Maui Chamber of Commerce Hawaiian Airlines Community Luncheon on Monday.

Dunkerley, who is retiring and will be replaced by Ingram on March 1, told the audience at Cafe O Lei at the Dunes at Maui Lani that since restarting its Kapalua flights to Oahu in 2017, Hawaiian is seeing more residents taking the flights. (Originally, the Oahu-Kapalua flights had been aimed at visitors.)

“We have been . . . impressed by the number of local residents taking those flights. It is our intention to grow that service, to provide more seats and times of day that are more convenient for local residents on that side of that island,” Dunkerley said.

After the presentation, Dunkerley and Ingram said that two new flights from Kapalua will be added beginning March 11. One flight will be earlier in the morning and the other flight later in the afternoon. Now, the airline’s two flights to Kapalua are midday, a time favorable to tourists.

Mark Dunkerley, president and chief executive officer of Hawaiian Airlines, talks to Maui business owner Max Tsai of TC Kokua on Monday following a Maui Chamber of Commerce annual Hawaiian Airlines luncheon at Cafe O Lei at the Dunes at Maui Lani. The Maui News / MELISSA TANJI photo

Hawaiian restarted its Kapalua service on March 1, after a 24-year hiatus.

Dunkerley told the audience that Hawaiian Holdings Inc., the airline’s parent company, is looking to purchase the now bankrupt Island Air’s operating certificate.

This would allow Hawaiian Air to do “in house” the operations of its turboprop aircraft, such as those used to fly to Kapalua. Currently, Empire Airlines is under contract to operate ‘Ohana by Hawaiian, which flies to Kapalua and other smaller markets in the state.

Before the luncheon, the airline executives were at Kahului Airport to take part in Hawaiian’s celebration of its first scheduled Airbus A321neo flight between Kahului and Oakland, Calif. The new midrange aircraft is preparing for direct service between Portland, Ore., and Kahului starting Jan. 18.

Dunkerley told the audience that the new aircraft is a good fit for flights to the Neighbor Islands, with its smaller passenger load of 189. The aircraft is capable of flying five to six hours and can run at low costs.

Hawaiian Airlines celebrated its first scheduled A321neo aircraft flight Monday at Kahului Airport. The flight was between Kahului and Oakland. The aircraft is scheduled to begin service between Kahului and Portland, Ore., on Jan. 18. The aircraft also will provide U.S. West Coast travelers with more nonstop flights to the islands. The midrange aircraft carries 189 passengers, and it’s smaller than the wide-body aircraft currently used for U.S. and international flights. Hawaiian Airlines photo

Current wide-body jets have a capacity of 274 passengers.

With the smaller passenger load, the new plane is better able to serve smaller areas such as Maui, Dunkerley said.

The new aircraft will provide U.S. West Coast passengers nonstop flights to more islands, an announcement said. It will complement the airline’s current wide-body aircraft used between Hawaii and 11 U.S. gateway cities and 10 international destinations.

Ingram told The Maui News that the new aircraft could “potentially” be used to resurrect direct Las Vegas-to-Kahului flights.

Hawaiian has two A321neo aircraft, and it would add another nine this year, Dunkerley said.

“They are coming quick and fast,” he said.

Dunkerley said the airline is looking to invest in the Neighbor Islands, and the new aircraft is one example.

“We are not going to become an airline so Oahu and Honolulu (centric) and forget the needs of the communities outside Oahu,” he said.

He added that the new aircrafts are “an investment that runs in the billions of dollars.”

In discussing other matters, Dunkerley said in a response to a question from the audience that Hawaiian uses a call center in the Philippines to lessen costs for its customers.

In the Philippines, there’s more flexibility with staffing and operations of the call centers than there would be in the states, he said. And, in the wake of the Aloha Airlines shutdown in 2008, Hawaiian was able to double its staff in its call center to handle the higher volume of calls.

Also, in addressing costs, Dunkerley explained that 25 percent of a passenger’s ticket comes from government fees.

Some of those fees include funding for federal highways, he said.

On Monday, Hawaiian Airlines announced it would begin daily nonstop flights between Long Beach, Calif., and Honolulu. The inaugural flight is scheduled for May 31. And, official service is set to begin June 1. The flights will be on the new A321neo.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at