By ERIN MILLER
Stephens Media Hawaii
Kohala residents will have a new option starting Saturday when they want to fly to Maui or Oahu.
That’s when Mokulele Airlines’ new service from the Waimea-Kohala Airport begins.
The federal Department of Transportation in July awarded Mokulele, headquartered in Kailua-Kona, the contract and a subsidy to provide the regular service. Flights will leave Waimea in the morning, stopping in Kahului, Maui, en route to Honolulu. Return flights will also stop on Maui.
Mokulele replaces Pacific Wings, which notified the state Department of Transportation in March that it would be ending service to Waimea.
Penny Pagliaro, owner of marketing firm Panalea and a member of the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce, which supported Mokulele’s bid for the service, said the change brings several positives for Kohala residents.
“To be able to drive to the airport here and save that drive to Kona is huge,” Pagliaro said. “I’ve been impressed by their professional presentations, professional attitude, and they seem to be serious about being here.”
A message left for Mokulele CEO Ron Hansen was not returned Friday.
Pagliaro said she also enjoyed the laid-back atmosphere flying out of Waimea provides. The airport does not have a Transportation Security Administration screening.
“It’s kind of like it used to be in the ’70s,” she said. “It was just easy. This is more local style. It fits for us.”
The airport peaked during that decade, according to the state DOT. Passenger counts in the mid-1970s reached more than 72,000, according to a DOT history of the airport. Passenger counts dropped after Queen Kaahumanu Highway was completed, opening an easier route for visitors to reach the Kohala coast resorts, DOT officials said.
Email Erin Miller at email@example.com.