Hawaiian Airlines To Cut ‘Ohana Turboprop Interisland Services

Hawaiian Airlines will suspend its ‘Ohana by Hawaiian passenger and cargo operations from November 1st. The airline must do so as it confronts the ongoing crisis that has led to involuntary furloughs for the carrier’s pilots and significantly reduced operations.

Hawaiian Airlines has temporarily suspended ‘Ohana services. Photo: Hawaiian Airlines.

Suspending ‘Ohana by Hawaiian

Hawaiian announced it would suspend ‘Ohana operations temporarily as a result of the continued economic challenges of low travel demand and quarantine restrictions. ‘Ohana itself is not barred from operating due to governmental or health regulations. Rather, Hawaiian’s actions in response to the crisis triggered a labor provision in the carrier’s contract with mainline pilots.

Not too long ago, Hawaiian Airlines had to reduce its workforce by about 2,500 employees after the Payroll Support Program (PSP) expired at the end of September. While Hawaiian’s CEO Peter Ingram lobbied for additional support, none came, and further funding for airlines currently appears stalled or in murky waters at best.

US Airline CEOS
CEO Peter Ingram (third from left wearing a blue mask) was in Washington D.C. in September, lobbying for government support for the industry. Photo: Getty Images

As a result of the ‘Ohana suspension, Hawaiian will suspend passenger flights between Honolulu (HNL) and Moloka’i (MKK) and Lana’i (LNY). Also, the carrier is suspending cargo-only services between the islands. Back in March, Hawaiian suspended operations between HNL and Kapalua (JHM) in West Maui.

The airline noted that a provision in its contract with pilots affects the airline’s ability to offer ‘Ohana service. According to the airline, it cannot provide ‘Ohana by Hawaiian flights when interisland Boeing 717 and Airbus A321neo jet flights operated by mainline Hawaiian pilots are severely reduced.

Hawaiian 717
A reduction in 717 flying means Hawaiian has to shut down its ‘Ohana flying temporarily. Photo: Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian’s President and CEO, Peter Ingram, stated the following in a press release viewed by Simple Flying:

“It is an honor to provide essential transportation for the people of Lāna‘i, Moloka‘i and West Maui, and more recently all-cargo service within our state. While we are disappointed at being unable to avoid the service suspension, this is a difficult situation for both Hawaiian and Empire Airlines as we navigate an incredibly challenging period, and we all remain committed to returning flights to communities that rely on ‘Ohana by Hawaiian.”

Passengers booked on ‘Ohana can expect to be contacted by Hawaiian Airlines. One option for travelers will be refunds on passenger itineraries. Freight, on the other hand, might be able to fly between the islands on mainline Airbus A321neo or Boeing 717 jets, depending on the shipment.

Ohana Cargo
ATR cargo aircraft also help fly shipments around the various islands. Photo: Hawaiian Airlines

What is ‘Ohana?

‘Ohana by Hawaiian is the airline’s third-party-operated regional feeder. Empire Airlines operates turboprop ATR aircraft on behalf of Hawaiian to smaller destinations in Hawaii. ‘Ohana flies eight ATR turboprop aircraft.

Four of those jets are ATR 42-500s. These turboprops have 48 seats with a 30″ pitch in a 2-2 configuration. Another four are ATR 72-200 freighters. These eight jets typically serve smaller destinations in Hawaii.

Ohana ATR
There are four ATR freighters operated by Empire Airlines in the ‘Ohana scheme. Photo: Hawaiian Airlines

‘Ohana flights were launched using ATR-42 turboprops in the spring of 2014. All-cargo ATR-72 aircraft service started in the summer of 2018. ‘Ohana is a term that broadly means “family.”

When will ‘Ohana service return?

Hawaiian Airlines is the only major full-service carrier to fly into LNY, MKK, and (previously) JHM, meaning the airline serves as a lifeline to connect those communities to the broader world.

Barring a significant recovery of interisland travel, Hawaiian does not anticipate resume ‘Ohana by Hawaiian service anytime soon if it has to rely on market conditions. However, the airline reached an agreement with the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) to be relieved from this contractual provision if additional PSP funds are made available through the federal government. Hawaiian would have to bring furloughed employees back on its payroll.

Hawaiian’s mainline fleet includes Airbus A330s. Photo: Getty Images

Smaller destinations like Moloka’i are not lucrative moneymaking operations, especially when passenger demand is already reduced, so it is unlikely that Hawaiian would add Boeing 717 or Airbus A321neo to any of these regional destinations unless cargo proves incredibly lucrative, which appears unlikely. To larger Hawaiian destinations like Hilo, Kahului, and others, Hawaiian flies mainline jets that can carry cargo. The ATRs operated in addition to mainline passenger flights.

As of now, ‘Ohana service is unlikely to resume in 2020, barring any major changes to the public health and economic situation. Hawaiian has not targeted a date for resumption yet. Ultimately, until it ramps up more mainline interisland flying, it will not be able to resume ‘Ohana service, likely pushing the service resumption out at least until early to mid-2021.

When do you think Hawaiian will reinstate ‘Ohana service? Are you upset to see Hawaiian suspend ‘Ohana flights? Let us know in the comments!