Do We Need Another Airline in Hawai’i?

Pacific Wings

Apparently, Pacific Wings thinks there aren’t enough airlines in Hawai’i. To remedy the situation, they’ve decided to start up PW Express to fly between Honolulu and both Lanai and Molokai as well as between Kahului (Maui) and Molokai.

I’m not quite sure what makes them think they’re going to succeed here. That is not a big market and they plan on having up to 14 daily flights on the Honolulu – Molokai run! To be fair, it’s not like they’ll have many seats. They use the mighty Grand Caravan.


Oh yeah, that’s one sweet ride. If you do happen to find yourself needing to go to Molokai, definitely try these guys. It’ll be a nice scenic ride and all seats will go for $29 each way. Now let’s do the math. Nine seats at $29 means total revenue of $261 per flight. Ouch. That’s not much. To be fair, they do get government subsidies for the Molokai route – just over $330,000 a year – so that should help them make money, but 14 flights a day is way too much.

We’ll see how long this one lasts.

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2 comments on “Do We Need Another Airline in Hawai’i?

  1. You apparently don’t know about PW. They’ve been in service for a long time having flights between Maui and Molokai and I thought they already had flights to Honolulu too. I think that they did, it’s just that they’re advertising cheaper fares now.

    You also aren’t aware of the many Molokaians who have to fly to outer islands for shoppping, medical attention, etc. These airlines are vital regardless if you feel that there are enough airlines in the Hawaiian chain. Not many of them service to Molokai with multiple options. Perhaps you only thought of O’ahu and Maui. As I said, many people fly out for their needs, not to vacation, so to pay more than a hundred dollars more than once a month is a bit ridiculous. Not all locals are rich and come from wealthy families.

  2. You’re right. Technically, this is not a new airline. It is just PW rebranding their flights and lowering fares. And why are they doing that? Probably because they can’t fill the planes at the fares they’re charging now.

    There are up to 8 daily flights on Island Air using 37 seat aircraft. Combine that with PW’s 7 daily flights on 9 seat Caravans (I believe the 14 daily flight number was roundtrip) and you have 359 seats a day just to Honolulu.

    Now when you consider that the entire island of Molokai had 7,404 people in the 2000 census, that seems like far too much service for the island to me.

    I know that there is tourism on Molokai, but it’s very small right now. Other than that, you’re serving the local population of Molokai, which definitely has more of a need to fly since many regular errands require going to another island, but not that much need.

    So with that many seats and so few residents, you probably need $29 fares to fill them up. I’d bet even those low fares won’t fill the plane because there just aren’t enough people. Look at go! – they offer $19 fares on much bigger routes and still can’t fill more than 70% of their seats.

    Instead, it’ll make PW lose a bunch of money and the risk of fares going up in the long term is high.

    The only question mark involves the government subsidies. Those can keep the route going for much longer than you would otherwise expect.

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