Updated: Right now, only Mokulele Airlines provides service to Molokai.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the price of airline tickets.

Molokai Sen. Lynn Decoite is proposing an airline subsidy program in the hopes that providing state funds to companies that fly to the Friendly Isle could help lower ticket prices for residents. 

University of Hawaii Student Stories project badge

Senate Bill 784 requires the state Department of Transportation to establish a one-year pilot program to provide subsidies to airlines operating out of Molokai airport. DeCoite said she hopes this program can lower airfare for Molokai residents and encourage more airlines to provide services at the Molokai Airport. 

DeCoite estimates the costs for the program at $1 million for the first year. Those monies would come from the state’s general fund. This pilot program is intended for Molokai residents only, so a passenger would need to show their driver’s license.

DeCoite said she introduced the bill after hearing numerous complaints about the costs of airfare. Growing up in Molokai, DeCoite said she always has been working closely with Molokai residents on improving the quality of life on the island. 

A painted mural of the island of Molokai located at the Molokai Airport.
Sen. Lynn DeCoite is proposing a subsidy program for airlines that fly to Molokai. (Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021)

“My whole goal as a Senator is to make sure the same resources other islands have is also available here in Molokai,” DeCoite said. 

Since January 2021, there has only been one passenger airline, Mokulele Airlines, that provides service to the general public from Molokai airport. 

Mokulele Airlines has been trying to increase the number of flights to Molokai after Hawaiian Airlines announced in 2021 it will not restart service between Honolulu, Molokai and Lanai. 

There are now 12 daily flights from the Molokai Airport to the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu. Mokulele currently uses Cessna 208 aircraft, which only allows around nine passengers per flight. The price of the tickets on these flights ranges from $69 to $119 each way.  

But the shortage of seats and the high cost of the airfare affects residents who need to travel for essential reasons, such as working on other islands, for medical appointments and for visiting family elsewhere. 

However, Mokulele’s Chief of Staff Keith Sisson said that a new Saab 340 aircraft with 28 passenger seats will start operating multiple daily flights starting Monday. Saab 340 aircraft will be mostly used during the peak times, which are early in the morning and before sunset.

SB 784 already has received support in a recent hearing from the state Department of Transportation. No one opposed the bill. SB 784 passed the Senate Transportation and Culture and the Arts Committee Feb. 7. 

  • Stories By University Of Hawaii Students

Even though Mokulele Airlines did not submit testimony at the bill’s first hearing, Sisson said the company supports the measure. 

“We are very supportive of anything that can help lower the cost of airfare in the marketplace,” Sisson said.  

These flights are “a public need, and a lot of residents have been struggling,” DeCoite said. “It is an essential service that the state should help support.”

Help power our public service journalism

As a local newsroom, Civil Beat has a unique public service role in times of crisis.

That’s why we’re committed to a paywall-free website and subscription-free content, so we can get vital information out to everyone, from all communities.

We are deploying a significant amount of our resources to covering the Maui fires, and your support ensures that we can pivot when these types of emergencies arise.

Make a gift to Civil Beat today and help power our nonprofit newsroom.

About the Author