Isle hoppersOnce word went out yesterday morning that Hawaii's two commuter airlines, Island Air and Pacific Wings, had the OK to begin at least some inter-island air service, reservation phone lines began ringing and passengers began showing up at Honolulu Airport's commuter terminal.
pick up slack
Commuter carriers increase security
as Hawaii airlines resume service
By Lyn Danninger
By midafternoon, passengers unable to secure seats on Hawaii's two main inter-island carriers, Aloha Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines, were being referred to the smaller commuter carriers. For Pacific Wings and Island Air, usually populated by frequent commuters and stray tourists, the extra business stretched service that usually focuses on Hawaii's rural destinations.
Arthur Rego, who owns golf shops on Maui and Oahu and splits his time between the two islands, left Kahului on one of the first available Pacific Wings flights into Honolulu mid-morning yesterday.
Rego said he feels lucky. "Everyone was telling me that I wouldn't be able to get back until at least tomorrow," he said.
Rego said he heard about the commuter flights from his brother who called after hearing an announcement on television. Rego said he wasted no time getting to the airport.
Visitors Joe Sheehan and Erin Sullivan had flown to Honolulu from Boston on Saturday. Sheehan was scheduled to attend an Oracle Corp. conference on Maui.
But with no idea when scheduled inter-island flights would resume, the couple made a reservation to catch the newly operating ferry to Maui.
Things changed when staff at their Waikiki hotel alerted them yesterday morning that it was possible to catch a Pacific Wings commuter flight to Kahului yesterday.
"The staff arranged the flight for us this morning. They were just great," said Sheehan.
But the couple is still worried about colleagues and friends also attending the Oracle Conference who had taken later flights out of Boston's Logan Airport.
"We're kind of on edge. We had friends on planes out of Boston on Tuesday so we're worried who made it," said Sheehan.
For Island Air passengers at the Honolulu commuter terminal, there were initially two scheduled neighbor island flights, one to Molokai at 11:40 a.m. and another to Lanai at 12:20 p.m., as well as some extra security measures when flights began.
Pacific Wings said it began running an hourly service yesterday between Kahului and Honolulu as soon as it got word mid-morning that it could begin limited service. The company said it would likely continue to run flights into the evening as needed and had already added extra flights to Molokai by the afternoon.
Any other time, the airlines does far fewer runs solely between Kahului and Honolulu because the route is dominated by Hawaiian and Aloha.
Although makeshift, new security was in evidence at the usually laid-back Honolulu commuter terminal. Airline and airport officials set up a folding table and used a velvet rope to control access to the Island Air passenger holding area. Before Tuesday's attack, passengers checked in and boarded planes without ever passing through checkpoints or a metal detector.
Yesterday, some Island Air passengers were at first let into a holding area after carry-on bags were searched by hand. Later those passengers were sent back out of the holding area to join newly arriving passengers lining up for more formal security screening when officials began using a hand-held metal detector.
Later in the day, all departing passengers on both airlines were being processed through a single check point.
Honeymooners Tracey and Scott Navaroli, who were headed for Lanai and had flown out of Boston on Monday, were philosophical about their extra night in Honolulu and the time it was taking to board their plane.
"There are just so few people trained to do this and they have to be pretty thorough," Scott said.
While commuter flights traveled between Kahului, Molokai and Lanai yesterday there was initially no word about FAA clearance to the state's smaller airports, such as West Maui's Kapalua and the federal Essential Air Service airports at Hana, Kamuela and Kalaupapa.
"We had been unable to get any government confirmation about uncontrolled airports such as Kalaupapa, Hana and Kamuela but we're prepared to resume service to those communities as soon as we the green light," said Pacific Wings' President Greg Kahlstorf earlier yesterday morning.
Those airports have no permanent staff or security.
But by late yesterday afternoon, the FAA gave the go-ahead to resume service to some of the state's smaller airports, known as non-certified airports, such as Hana, Kalaupapa and Kamuela today.
Flight service at the rural airports is available for commercial airlines with planes of 10 seats or fewer, FAA Pacific Area Representative Tweet Coleman said.
"They'll be permitted to fly from a certified airport into a non-certified airport but with some special flight plan requirements," she said.
In other late developments, Coleman also noted that air cargo carriers who file an instrument flight plan will be also be allowed to resume flights to FAA certified airports.
But general aviation flights, such as those operated by private individuals and recreational flights, are still grounded under FAA orders. Coleman said she believes those restrictions are likely to be lifted within the next few days.
Electronic ticketing is also under an FAA ban and is likely to remain that way, Coleman said.