Mokulele Airlines and the Travassa Hana hotel have formed a partnership to launch twice-daily service between Kahului and Hana starting Oct. 1, restoring what officials say has been a decadelong hiatus in daily scheduled service to rural East Maui.
Fares will start at $59 each way on Mokulele's nine-seater Cessna Grand Caravan aircraft.
While the airline and resort have teamed up for the venture, flights will be open to both hotel guests and the public. Terms of the partnership were not disclosed.
Hotel officials said the 20-minute one-way flights will provide an alternative to driving into Hana, which typically takes about two hours from Kahului.
Now, chartered flights are the only option for flying into Hana.
"We are thrilled to be able to offer the town of Hana and our hotel guests a quick and affordable option for traveling to the eastern coast of Maui," Chris Manning, co-founder and president of Travassa Experiential Resorts, said in a statement.
Travassa Hana General Manager Danny Mynar said guests often inquire about flight possibilities.
"We always hear comments from guests saying, 'I love the road to Hana, but it would be nice to fly the next time.' It can be a white-knuckle experience for many guests," Mynar said of the 55-mile drive from Kahului Airport. "Now we have this option moving forward."
The hotel will be offering a package deal that includes complimentary flights in and out of Hana for guests who book a minimum three-night, all-inclusive stay.
Mynar said the flights also will benefit the local community.
"It's not just for guests but also for local residents and anyone who wants to fly in and out of Hana," he said. "It can be a cheaper alternative and more efficient use of time."
Mokulele Airlines Chief Executive Officer Ron Hansen said he recently stayed at the Travassa Hana at the invitation of the luxury resort's management.
"I was so impressed with it. We talked about doing something together to bring more customers and guests out to their hotel," Hansen said. "We think it'll be successful both for the hotel and Mokulele."
Past carriers have said Hana proved to be an unprofitable route for daily service. At one point, one-way fares between Kahului and Hana topped $500.
Hansen - who bought the Mokulele interisland turboprop operation from Mesa Airlines late last year - said the $59 fares should help attract business.
"I don't believe the fares that were being charged before for Hana helped," he said. "If you charge too much, nobody will fly. And if you don't have customers, it's a losing operation. I think there will be a lot of people who will want to experience Hana, maybe even just for the day."
A morning flight will depart from Kahului Airport at 11:19 a.m. and arrive at the Hana Airport at 11:40 a.m. The plane will leave Hana at noon and arrive in Kahului at 12:21 p.m. An afternoon flight will depart Kahului at 4:14 p.m. and arrive in Hana at 4:35 p.m. It will leave Hana at 4:55 p.m. and arrive in Kahului at 5:16 p.m.
State Sen. J. Kalani English - a Hana resident who represents East and Upcountry Maui, Molokai, Lanai and Kahoolawe - called the Kahului-Hana flight an "important lifeline" for Hana.
"Mokulele's flight service two times a day will bring a boost to the Hana community's economy and to its resort and spa, Travaasa Hana," English said in a statement. "Essential services (will) also become more efficient, such as mail and newspaper delivery. Hana Medical Center, Hana School, state and county government (will) benefit from this new venture as well."
English, who chairs the Senate Committee on Transportation and International Affairs, said he secured $19 million in this year's state budget to upgrade the Hana Airport to meet federal standards.
He said Hana has not had scheduled daily flights since at least 2000.
"This service provides an important lifeline for us," he said.
Flights can be booked starting today at mokuleleairlines.com.
* Nanea Kalani can be reached at email@example.com.