June 14, 2020 / Hawaii’s two largest commuter airlines, Mokulele and Makani Kai, announced that they will merge operations beginning within the end of June. The merger solidifies the health of commuter airline system in the islands right when the State’s governor announced the end of quarantine for inter-island travellers starting from June 16.
“I was worried about the commuter industry not being there for the Hawaiian people once the COVID crisis ends” said Makani Kai Air’s founder, Richard Schuman. “So I reached out to Mokulele CEO Stan Little and suggested that maybe we could better serve Hawaiian people if we teamed up and do it together”. Makani Kai was founded in 1998 by Richard Schuman, a fourth generation Hawaii resident whose grandfather immigrated from Germany in 1893. Over a century later, Richard Schuman started Schuman Aviation, the parent company of Makani Kai Air, along with Magnum Helicopters and Hawaii Aviation Services, which are not part of the Mokulele merger.
“In the last two months we at Mokulele provided uninterrupted transportation for essential workers, flown medical supplies for hospitals and first responders, donated free shipping for almost 70,000 pounds of groceries to the people of Molokai, and catered a hot meal for residents at Kaluapapa, who have been on lockdown longer than any of us.” said Stan Little, CEO of Mokulele. “When we heard Richard’s proposal to merge our companies, we knew it would lead to our being stronger together”.
The first benefit of the merger will be a new non-stop route between Honolulu and Lanai City, perhaps the first new route announced by any US airline since the Coronavirus lockdown began in March. “We know that in the age of Covid people want to be on smaller airplanes, with less personal contact, and bypass crowded terminals and TSA lines. All this is possible while flying with us”.
The integration period is expected to last until Fall. The only immediate change noticeable to the public will be that Makani Kai’s flights will be sold exclusively through Mokulele’s distribution channels, primarily the airline’s website at mokuleleairlines.com. Richard Schuman has been named Executive Vice President of Hawaiian Operations for the combined entity and will oversee all operations in the State of Hawaii.
Mokulele Airlines was founded in 1994 by Rebecca “Kawehi” Inaba and was bought by Stan Little’s Southern Airways Express in February 2019. The airline flies a fleet of 12 Cessna 208B Grand Caravans to 9 destinations in the State of Hawaii. In the pre-Covid months it operated an average of 140 daily flights throughout Hawaii. Makani Kai Air has a fleet of 7 Cessna Grand Caravans. (Photo Matteo Legnani)