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‘Ohana to keep flying

Flights to Lanai, Molokai continue into January

The Maui News

‘Ohana by Hawaiian, which had announced the discontinuation of passenger flights between Honolulu and Molokai and Lanai on Nov. 1, will continue flying those routes until at least mid-January, Hawaiian Airlines announced Monday.

The U.S. Department of Transportation decided that the airline had to cover Molokai and Lanai under its Essential Air Service program with flights maintained for a minimum of 90 days, the notice period required for changes under the program, the airline said.

Earlier this month, Hawaiian announced the need to suspend both routes on Nov. 1 due to low travel demand triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic and a provision in Hawaiian’s pilot contract restricting the carrier’s ability to provide ‘Ohana by Hawaiian service.

“Despite unprecedented challenges, Hawaiian has indicated that its goal has always been to avoid a service interruption, and the company will comply with the EAS requirements to continue to serve Molokai and Lanai as it continues exploring long-term solutions to preserve critical connectivity for both islands,” Hawaiian said.

Empire Airlines operates ‘Ohana as a contractor for Hawaiian Airlines.

“I am thankful that by working with Hawaiian Airlines, ‘Ohana by Hawaiian / Empire Airlines and the U.S. Department of Transportation that service to Molokai Airport and Lanai Airport was deemed an essential service and that flights can continue for the next few months,” said Rep. Lynn DeCoite, who represents Molokai, Lanai and East Maui.

“It is my hope that with the reopening of interisland and trans-Pacific travel, that come January we will have reached the point that this cut in service is no longer warranted,” she said. “We have seen the countless ways this pandemic has affected us all. This announcement gives us some relief on our road to economic recovery and assurance that for the next few months, those that are most vulnerable in our communities will be able to get to their necessary medical appointments as well as other essential and nonessential travel.”

Travel to and from Lanai will be limited to essential and health needs only, following an outbreak of COVID-19 on the island, which had been virus free until last week. Gov. David Ige signed Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino’s request to limit travel to and from Lanai beginning today.

“Our people are already struggling with COVID-19 pandemic impacts, so this is welcome news for our people, especially for those who have few other options for transporting cargo or traveling off island,” said Victorino. ” ‘Ohana by Hawaiian has been the only airline option for people who are in wheelchairs or those needing physical assistance to be able to travel off-island.”

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