By TOM CALLIS
Tribune-Herald staff writer
Mokulele Airlines has been awarded a four-year contract to provide subsidized air service to Waimea.
The federal Department of Transportation issued the contract to continue air service to the North Hawaii community.
Pacific Wings had provided flights to Waimea but notified DOT in March that it planned to end the service.
Mokulele Airlines beat other bids for the contract from Makani Kai and Pacific Wings, which was only offering ground shuttle service to Kona International Airport.
DOT selected Mokulele Airlines because it offered lower-cost flights and for support within the Waimea community, the agency said in its decision issued last week.
The airline offered 12 nonstop flights a week to either Kahului Airport or Honolulu International Airport in its bid.
DOT selected the Kahului option, guaranteeing regular service to the airport on Maui, but stated it will give the airline flexibility in choosing to offer service to either destination.
Fares on average will be $63.26 to Kahului and $86.51 to Honolulu per trip, the company estimated in its bid.
Makani Kai, which only offered flights to Honolulu, had estimated its fares would cost $150.
The contract begins Oct. 1 and will run through Sept. 30, 2017. Pacific Airlines will continue operations through Aug. 11.
The annual subsidy will be $494,291 for the first year, $434,411 the second year, $417,310 the third year and $412,389 during the fourth year.
The subsidy covers about 80 percent of the cost of the regularly-scheduled flights.
The Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce, as well as several individuals, endorsed Mokulele Airlines’ proposal.
Most commenters favored flights to Honolulu, according to DOT.
It noted that flights to Kahului would be most “advantageous” to the day-tripper market because of the shorter distance.
The Kahului airport offers non-stop flights to the mainland. Mokulele Airlines also offers flights between Kahului and Honolulu.
Ron Hansen, Mokulele Airlines CEO and president, couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.
Email Tom Callis at email@example.com.