Kalaupapa Residents Celebrate New Air Service

Published On: Jan 17 2012 02:44:49 AM HST   Updated On: Jan 17 2012 10:04:03 PM HST

Residents of Kalaupapa, Molokai gathered at their tiny airport Tuesday to celebrate the dedication of new, cheaper air service to and from their community.

The residents of the isolated former Hansen's Disease community were used to paying nearly $500 for round trip flights to and from Kalaupapa.

"Things are very expensive. Same thing with the airline, but they make too much. We don't know why they need that much of that price," said resident Ivy Kahilihiwa.

Residents also complained there were not enough flights.

People gathered Tuesday at the humble airport for the dedication ceremony celebrating Makani Kai Air Charters new service, which, thanks to federal subsidies, brings airfares down to just over $150 dollars round trip up to Kaunakakai, on the top side of the island.

"It means a renewed freedom for them to travel when they wish, have family visit to have patients reconnect with people that they love and make sure people that want to see Kalaupapa as a sacred place can visit," said Administrator Mark Miller.

It has been so expensive to fly to the top side of the island that many residents walk a three and a half mile trail that climbs over 3,000 feet in elevation.

I hiked up and down that trail. I'm 54 years old and I have a hard time. There's guys been here longer than I have go up there 20 years up and down that trail," said resident William Puaoi.

Makani Kai Air Charters takes over the contract from Pacific Wings.

An attorney for Pacific Wings has petitioned the federal government to reconsider its nearly $2 million award to Makani Kai, claiming the company did not include revenue from ticket sales in its calculations for the federal subsidy.

Pacific Wings, which lost the contract, said the new flight service is getting too much of a federal handout.


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