Terrible news for Hawaii tourism and especially those who worked for Hawaiian Airlines‘ offshoot ‘Ohana by Hawaiian. The small subsidiary, which began in 2014, flying passengers between Honolulu and Moloka‘i and Lāna‘i using 48 seat ATR 72 and 42 aircraft, is throwing in the towel.

The airline also announced today that it will not restart the statewide ATR freighter cargo service as well. Freighter service was suspended in November 2020 and passenger service was halted January 14. Service between Honolulu and Kapalua was suspended in March 2020.

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The airline cited severe decline in neighbor island travel demand resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and state and county quarantine measures that triggered a labor provision that led to the temporary suspension of passenger and cargo flights. Hawaiian decided to permanently end service following an in-depth assessment of the overall operation and its long-term viability.

Peter Ingram, president and CEO at Hawaiian Airlines said, “This is a heartbreaking decision, particularly for those of us who were involved in launching the business in 2014.” He went on to say, “We took a hard look at the service and could not identify a way to restart and sustainably operate.”

‘Ohana by Hawaiian was operated by Idaho-based Empire Airlines as a third-party feeder carrier. When service was at its peak, Empire employed 82 pilots, flight attendants and maintenance personnel in the state of Hawai‘i as well as 15 at its home base in Idaho. All 97 employees were dedicated to the ‘Ohana operation.

I’ve flown on ‘Ohana by Hawaiian multiple times and always enjoyed it even though I’m not a fan of smaller planes. I even wrote a popular tip titled Where to Find the Most Unique Form of In-Flight Entertainment. I learned that by an insider that you could ask a flight attendant to play one of the three ukuleles gifted to the airline by Aunty Julia Hoe. There were three planes in total, so there was one on each aircraft.

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