HONOLULU – The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) will subsidize air service to and from Kalauapa, and will select an air carrier to service the unique community following a competitive bid process, Senator Daniel K. Inouye, Senator Daniel K. Akaka and Congresswoman Mazie K. Hirono announced today.
Airline prices increased in 2009, and individuals pay up to $550 for round-trip tickets to Honolulu from Kalaupapa, Molokai.
The DOT’s call for bids will include an Essential Air Service (EAS) subsidy, which has the potential to reduce the current airfares by more than 60 percent. EAS subsidies were established and funded by the Congress to address the needs of rural communities like Kalaupapa.
The incumbent carrier is required to provide service in the interim and may submit a bid. DOT hopes to have a carrier in place by the summer.
“Yesterday, we talked about the big, massive Honolulu transit project. Today, Transportation Secretary LaHood joined us to address a small, heartfelt issue – the need for reasonable fares and reliable service for the people of Kalaupapa,” said Senator Inouye. “His announcement and solution were very well received. He is hopeful that by the summer, there will be an air carrier and a subsidy in place, to allow the residents to travel with fairness and dignity.”
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said federal funds will be used to buy a ramp and related equipment to help accommodate patients and residents dealing with disabilities.
“Senator Inouye, Senator Akaka and Congresswoman Hirono brought these air service issues to my attention and I’m pleased we have found a solution to meet the needs of the people,” said Secretary LaHood.
“Nobody can speak as eloquently as the residents of Kalaupapa themselves as they asked for reliable and affordable air service to and from Kalaupapa. This morning we heard from them. I am grateful to Secretary LaHood for his decision to use the authority of the U.S. Department of Transportation to address the residents’ concern,” said Congresswoman Mazie K. Hirono. “I also mentioned to Secretary LaHood this morning that should legislative language regarding service to Kalaupapa be necessary in the FAA reauthorization bill, I have been working on such language and can pursue that avenue when the House takes up the bill next week. My goal, which I know is shared by the entire delegation, is that everyone in our island state has access to affordable and convenient air service.”
Submitted by the Hawaii congressional delegation offices.