COURTESY OF MOKULELE AIRLINES
Under its deal with Mesa Airlines, parent of go!, Mokulele Airlines is replacing the five Piper Chieftains in its fleet with turbine-engine Grand Caravans. The first of the new planes, above, arrived on Sunday. CLICK FOR LARGE
Mokulele's goExpress! fleet taking shape
The two airlines plan to finalize a code-sharing agreement by tomorrow
Kona-based Mokulele Airlines and Mesa Air Group Inc. plan to finalize a code-share agreement tomorrow that will set the stage for goExpress! to begin interisland flights in April.
The new service will extend Mesa's reach into the islands by allowing go! passengers and others to travel between neighbor islands and, eventually, to some of the state's smaller airports.
Mokulele Chief Executive William Boyer said yesterday the first of the carrier's newly acquired Cessna Grand Caravan 208-B aircraft, now painted with the goExpress! logo and colors, flew into Hawaii Sunday.
Boyer said goExpress! will debut with $19 one-way fares for its 12 daily flights. Initial service will encompass round trips between Kona and Kahului, Kahului and Hana, Hana and Honolulu, and Honolulu and Kapalua.
Mokulele still plans to continue its separate scheduled Kona-Kahului, Kahului-Hilo and Kahului-Hana routes, as well as charter flights to all the islands.
"Teaming up ... gives us more credibility and gives us a lot of feeds to a lot of the islands we haven't been to before except on charters," Boyer said.
Jonathan Ornstein, chairman and chief executive of Mesa, noted that the deal is a role reversal of sorts for his company.
"We're been an express partner (US Airways, Delta and United), but this is a first for us," Ornstein said.
Mesa and Mokulele, founded in 1998, signed a memorandum of understanding in September to launch the goExpress! brand. Under the deal, Boyer is replacing the five Piper Chieftains in Mokulele's fleet with turbine-engine Grand Caravans.
The piston-operated Chieftains were sold to Express One, an Orlando, Fla.-based freight and charter company that brokered a deal to sell them to an East Coast ambulance company.
Two of the five Chieftains already have left Mokulele's fleet, with the remaining aircraft to be phased out within the next three months, Boyer said.
Boyer said the second Grand Caravan is scheduled to arrive in the next six to eight weeks, with another to come four to six weeks after that.
Ultimately, Boyer said Mokulele will own four of the aircraft, which cost about $2 million each. Ornstein said Mesa may make an investment in Mokulele or help Boyer finance additional aircraft depending how goExpress! takes off.
Ornstein also said Mesa is looking into ancillary business in Hawaii in cargo and charter "that makes sense."
Boyer said the intention of goExpress! is to offer frequent service.
"Our whole goal is to have one flight going to every island every 32 minutes, especially for goExpress!," Boyer said. "Go! really wants to have frequency for the passengers and bring in low airfares."
Boyer said go!Express flights can be booked now through Mokulele's Web site at www.mokuleleairlines.com, and in two to three weeks also will be available for booking on go!'s Web site at www.iflygo.com.