Island Air is planning to restore service to Kauai after suspending flights in June 2015.
Subject to government approval, Hawaii’s second airline is going to have six daily round-trip flights between Honolulu and Lihue Airport (LIH) starting on March 15.
Island Air says its return will not only benefit islands with more seats and options, it will also create approximately 32 airport-related jobs on Kauai and Oahu.
The airline is celebrating the return with a special $63 one-way fare between Honolulu and Lihue, available Thursday, Jan. 21, through Sunday, Jan. 24, for travel between March 15 and May 31.
“Our intention is really kind of to say thank you to the community for being so supportive,” said Jeff Au, founder of local investment firm PacifiCap.
Hawaiian Airlines says it is matching that fare, with some blackout dates, beginning Friday though Monday, for travel between the same dates.
Island Air is making its return nine months after it stopped flying to the Garden Island.
“Like with many companies, when you’re trying to turn around operations, sometimes you have to pull back, slow things down a bit to restructure things,” Au said.
Au said certain issues, including on-time performance, have been improved.
In response, Hawaiian Airlines said in a statement: “We compete in every market we serve with excellent service, convenient route schedules and unmatched punctuality and will continue to do so.”
The majority of travelers KHON2 talked to believe this is a good move by Island Air, and they hope the carrier offers more flights to the neighbor islands.
“Because when you have a monopoly in place, it’s controlled and they can do whatever they want,” said traveler Norman Lau.
But traveler Evelyn Kuromoto said lower fares won’t matter “because I’m so used to with Hawaiian Air.”
Expansion plans aren’t done yet. “I think at a high level, let’s say over the next year or so, we hope we can fly to or re-enter other destinations that Island Air always had flown to,” Au said.
On Jan. 6, Larry Ellison’s Ohana Airline Holdings (OAH) announced plans to sell a controlling interest in Island Air to PaCap Aviation Finance and Malama Investments. The two Hawaii investor groups are managed by PacifiCap and Jeffrey Au. The sale is subject to U.S. Department of Transportation approval.
Pending approval of the sale, the airline is being overseen by a transition team comprised of Au, current Island Air CEO Dave Pflieger and former Island Air executive and Kauai native, Les Murashige.
When announcing the purchase, PacifiCap officials said interisland travel is not a luxury, but a necessity for local travelers.