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First Flight


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POSTED: Thursday, November 20, 2008

Mokulele Airlines debuted jet service yesterday with a morning flight from Honolulu to Lihue followed shortly by a flight from Kona to Honolulu.

The two jets are the first of four 70-seat Embraer 170 aircraft that will arrive in Hawaii by early next year under a service agreement announced in October with Indianapolis-based Republic Airways. The expansion brings new competition to the interisland market after the demise of Aloha Airlines at the end of March. The jets, which arrived last week, will have daily service from Honolulu to Kona and Lihue.

The first flight was scheduled to leave Honolulu at 7:19 a.m. bound for Lihue. Another inaugural flight was scheduled to leave Kona at 7:23 a.m. Both planes were running under a full schedule yesterday.

Bill Boyer, Mokulele's owner, president and chief executive, said computer system and jetway problems caused delays on the flights, which were not at capacity.

"It was a show-and-tell kind of day," he said. "We just want to make sure things go smooth. The best day to do it is on a slow day of the week."

Several flights were blocked out for media, business executives and potential investors, with few passengers from the general public, Boyer said.

Bookings for the remainder of the week are "looking very good," he said. The company's Web site, http://www.mokuleleairlines.com, had 140,000 hits on Monday, and is currently at about 80,000 hits a day, he said.

Husband and wife Angel and Bernice Pablo, former Aloha Airlines flight attendants, were invited to fly on an afternoon flight to Lihue from Honolulu with their daughter, Anela.

"It's pretty similar to what Aloha and Hawaiian do," Angel Pablo said in an interview just before boarding his return flight. "The biggest difference is the jet itself; the jet was the most impressive to me. Coach had extra seating space."

Kona-based Mokulele also hosted a group of faculty members and two-dozen Mokulele Elementary School fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade student council members on the inaugural flight from Honolulu.

Under the new jet service, the airline has nine round-trip flights a day scheduled from Honolulu to Lihue, with eight on Sunday; five round-trip flights a day from Honolulu to Kona with four on Sunday; and three one-stop flights between Kona and Lihue. Beginning March 1, seven daily flights are scheduled from Honolulu to Kahului, with six on Sunday. Five flights will be offered early next year from Honolulu to Hilo.

Mokulele is offering an introductory fare of $45 each way.

The airline also operates six nine-seat Cessna 208B Grand Caravans, as well as one Cessna Grand Caravan cargo freighter, with another expected to enter service in about a month.