Lawmaker discusses options once go! Airlines departs

The shutdown of go! airlines leaves fewer flying options and, for some areas, just one airline. But one lawmaker is hoping go!’s departure could lead to another carrier in Hawaii or expanded ferry service.

“To be frank, no, I don’t think people will miss go!,” said Sen. J. Kalani English, (D) Upcountry Maui, Molokai, Lanai. “I think go! missed the opportunity to create a great airline here by choosing poor customer service and by choosing not to show up on time.”

Sen. English says now that Mesa Air Group has decided to depart, other airlines could seize the opportunity to arrive. Rumors have swirled in the past about other carriers, such as Southwest Airlines, eyeing Hawaii. But with no promises and news of one less option in the skies, travelers are worried prices may go up.

“That’s concerning, yeah,” said passenger Janice Kim.

Sen. English serves several districts on the Neighbor Islands and chairs the Senate Committee on Transportation and International Affairs. He says there’s very little lawmakers can do to ensure prices don’t go up. He says the federal government sets policies for the airlines. Alaska is the only exemption, but maybe Hawaii could be next.

“Perhaps next year we’ll look at something like that, asking Congress to give us some local control,” he said. Sen. English says that could mean better control of routes and how the airlines fly.

Another option down the road would be to “look at expanding ferry service, at least within Maui County, because it exists already,” he said.

Speaking of expansion, Hawaiian Airlines is giving travelers more options. Ohana by Hawaiian launched its inaugural flight to Lanai Tuesday and Molokai last week. Sen. English plans to join Hawaiian’s officials on the Lanai flight later this week.

“(My plan) is to ask them to stay in communication with all of us about how they plan to move ahead and how they plan to ensure they have uninterrupted services at reasonable prices for everyone in Hawaii,” he said.

Although Hawaiian Airlines declined an on-camera interview, a spokesperson said the company will continue to compete on Neighbor Island routes, but could not discuss details such as pricing or number of flights.

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