March 16, 2018

Hirono: I Will Hold U.S. Department of Transportation Accountable to Kalaupapa Community

WASHINGTON, D.C. –  Senator Mazie K. Hirono released the following statement in response to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) issuance of an Order to Mokulele Airlines to provide unsubsidized Essential Air Service (EAS) to Kalaupapa:

“Congress created the Essential Air Service Program to serve communities like Kalaupapa. The U.S. Department of Transportation must uphold its commitments to the Kalaupapa community, and I will hold USDOT accountable to make sure air service to Kalaupapa meets the needs of the community.” 

The current subsidized service to Kalaupapa by Makani Kai Airlines will be terminated on May 31. At that time, Mokulele Airlines will begin unsubsidized service to Kalaupapa. Mokulele Airlines currently provides subsidized service to Hana Airport and, under a contract that expired in January, also provided subsidized service to Waimea-Kohala Airport. 

Last month, Senator Hirono met with Under Secretary of Transportation for Policy Derek Kan to reinforce the importance of EAS for Kalaupapa and requested that USDOT recognize the concerns of the Kalaupapa community in switching from subsidized service to unsubsidized service. 

Congress established EAS to ensure small communities that were served by air carriers before deregulation of the industry in the 1970s would continue to receive scheduled passenger service, with subsidies if necessary. In a letter to USDOT, Senator Hirono requested that the Department address the concerns raised by the Kalaupapa community when issuing the Order, provide a direct line of communication on any material air service changes, and closely monitor the quality of air service and reopen the Order if necessary.