Mokulele trimming flights a month after jet startup


POSTED: Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Interisland carrier Mokulele Airlines early this morning brought the third of four new aircraft to Hawaii even as it has scaled back flights less than a month after starting jet service under a partnership with Republic Airways.

Bill Boyer, Mokulele's president and chief executive officer, said yesterday that the carrier has canceled up to four one-way early morning flights a day in the past two weeks on its Honolulu routes between both Lihue and Kona as its load factor slipped to between 30 and 40 percent.

“;In the last couple of weeks it hasn't been the busiest,”; Boyer said. “;Kona has been our busiest market.”;

He said cancellations are tapering off, with flights now booked at 60 to 70 percent capacity and expected to hit 80 percent during the upcoming holiday travel season. Boyer said he is “;seeing a major increase”; in enrollment in Mokulele's Ali'i Rewards Program announced last week, which includes lounge access at Honolulu Airport, a $20 first-class upgrade and no-change fees.

Mokulele is also moving up the start of jet service between Honolulu and Kahului to Feb. 1 from March 1, following an influx of requests to the company's reservation center, Boyer said. The carrier has been flying from Honolulu to Kona and Lihue since Nov. 19 with two 70-seat Embraer 170 jets owned by Indianapolis-based Republic. The third jet will be used as a spare for the holidays, while the fourth jet is expected to arrive in mid-January for service to Hilo.

The Kona-based carrier expects to operate seven round-trip daily flights between Honolulu and Kahului, with six on Sundays. It currently operates 85 daily departures to seven cities in Hawaii, including service with its six nine-seat Cessna 208B Grand Caravans, as well as one Cessna Grand Caravan cargo freighter.

Boyer also said he expects to announce new partnerships with undisclosed airlines in the next month. In the past two weeks, he announced code-share agreements with Calgary, Alberta-based WestJet and Seattle-based Alaska Airlines. He is also working to sell Mokulele seats through global distribution systems such as Expedia Inc. and Orbitz LLC and establish e-ticketing with partner carriers.

Mokulele, Mesa Air Group's go! and Hawaiian Airlines all said Monday they are offering $39 one-way fares for travel to Lihue and Kona through Dec. 31. Mokulele, which initiated the fare sale, said tickets must be purchased by 5:30 a.m. this morning. Hawaiian's tickets must be purchased by midnight.

Go! is also offering $48 one-way fares valid for travel through Jan. 31. There is no deadline for purchasing those tickets or the $39 fares.

Island Air said yesterday it is offering $54 one-way fares on all routes through Dec. 31, available for online bookings through tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Hawaiian said yesterday in a regulatory filing that it expects capacity for the quarter ending Dec. 31 to increase 2 percent to 3 percent from last year. The carrier is bringing in four new Boeing 717-200 jets from October through January to increase operating efficiency and improve its flight schedule.