When Hawaiian Airlines announced the name of its new interisland air service, ‘Ohana by Hawaiian, the statement said flights to Molokai and Lanai would begin sometime this summer.
Molokai is still waiting.
At the time of the announcement on Feb. 11, the airline’s parent company, Hawaiian Holdings Inc., had already purchased two 48-seat ATR 42 twin turbo-prop airplanes. A design and brand identity had already been selected and it appeared that Hawaiian was ready to compete with Island Air, Mokulele and Makani Kai Air, the three interisland operators currently flying to Molokai.
But then the process got stalled for a while, said Ann Botticelli, Hawaiian’s senior vice president of corporate communications and public affairs.
According to Botticelli, the resources available to the Federal Aviation Administration were constrained as a result of the sequestration of the federal government. These delays in FAA oversight halted much of the preparation work being done by Empire Airlines, the Idaho-based airline that will be operating the flights.
Some of the preparation by Empire included hiring pilots, flight attendants and mechanics for the new airline. A total of 100 new Hawaii-based jobs will be created with the start of this new service, according to Hawaiian Airlines, including ground-handling and customer service positions on Molokai and Lanai.
But now the FAA has the resources to oversee the Empire contractors and everything is “back on track,” said Botticelli. Hawaiian Airlines will be working with the FAA to determine the length of the certification process. Based on current estimates, the airline hopes to begin operations in February of 2014, said Botticelli.
Empire still needs to conduct “proving runs” to test the aircraft on the flights between Oahu and Molokai and Lanai. The FAA must certify the airline’s monitoring systems as well.
When ‘Ohana by Hawaiian begins operations, flights will be operated out of gates 49 and 50 at Honolulu International Airport by contractor Empire Airlines.