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Mokulele to resume full schedule by end of week after weather delays flights

Mokulele Airlines plans to bring in extra aircraft and have its full schedule of flights back by the end of the week after a storm moving west across the islands delayed flights and knocked out two of its planes stationed overnight in Honolulu.

“It’s really been a perfect storm from every direction it seems,” Stan Little, chairman and CEO of Southern Airways, which owns Mokulele, said Monday afternoon.

“We found out just after midnight that not only were we having to reaccommodate people that had delays yesterday, but now we’re going to have more delays today due to the weather, and now we’re going to do it with two less aircraft, which is 20 percent of the normal flying fleet in Hawaii.”

As the heavy rains and winds started in Hawaii island and headed west across the state, Mokulele had to delay flights Saturday night and Sunday, Little said. Staff worked all Sunday night to fill every seat with a passenger on Monday and also tried to preserve flights for Molokai and Lanai, which have no other passenger airline options.

“We actually moved as many of the cancellations as possible to cities like Kona and Hilo and Kahului, where there are other options for people, and we bought them tickets on Hawaiian Airlines and Southwest, to take that aircraft and crew and turn it back to Molokai and Lanai,” Little explained.

He estimated that five or fewer flights to Molokai and Lanai had to be canceled, though some routes were added later at night to try and make up for the cancellations.

Mokulele also plans to fly in two aircraft from the Mainland after two planes spending the night at Terminal 3 of the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu were damaged when strong winds blew an Amazon air cargo container into the aircraft, Little said. One sustained “relatively minor damage” and should be flying again by the end of the week, Little reported. The other was damaged badly and will likely take 45 to 90 days to fix, with maintenance crews coming in from the Mainland to make the repairs.

“As of now, we believe that we will be able to get one plane added to the fleet tomorrow and another added to the fleet by Thursday,” Little said. “We think by Thursday, Friday at the latest, we should be flying with a full fleet of aircraft in Hawaii. This is going to continue to be disruptive for a couple of days but we continue to fly over 80 percent of the schedule and should be back to 100 percent by the end of the week.”

In the meantime, all change fees will be waived for passengers traveling this week, Little said.

A few flights were delayed or diverted at Kahului Airport after a glitch in a power transfer switch left the terminal in the dark for about three hours Sunday, Maui District Airports Manager Marvin Moniz said.

He said power was restored by about 7:30 p.m. Sunday, so flights that had diverted to Honolulu arrived on Maui and departing flights left, although a little later.

By 10 or 10:30 p.m., TSA lines were cleared and passengers were in the air or boarding flights, Moniz said.

“It was lucky it was a little slower on Sunday,” he said.

Moniz said the airport’s backup generator kicked in Sunday afternoon when a Hawaiian Electric outage occurred as a result of high winds and heavy rain from a Kona storm. The outage didn’t last long, but when Hawaiian Electric came back online, the airport generator transfer switch had a glitch, Moniz said. He said the generator went off when it recognized that Hawaiian Electric power was back, but the switch didn’t let the power from the utility go through to the terminal.

Both Hawaiian Electric and the contractor worked on repairs to restore power to the airport.

Three incoming planes waited for a gate for about an hour until power was back, Moniz said. He said three other incoming flights diverted to Honolulu before arriving on Maui.

Moniz said the outage occurred during the peak of the wind and rain at the airport, so people who were at the terminal weren’t driving out of the area in the dark. Kahului Airport recorded 3.13 inches of rain in the 24 hours ending at 4 p.m. Monday, according to the National Weather Service.

Moniz said the outage occurred during a slower period before red-eye flights were scheduled to depart. At the peak, about 1,300 people were at the terminal, he said.

Once power was restored, it took about a half-hour for TSA to set up screening machines, Moniz said.

On Monday morning, he said flights were running on time.

There was no rain and a little mist at the airport.

“We’re hoping that might be it for Maui,” Moniz said.

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at lfujimoto@mauinews.com. Colleen Uechi can be reached at cuechi@mauinews.com.

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