The start up of Hawaiian Airlines’ new regional subsidiary Ohana by Hawaiian has been delayed by the US federal government sequester budget cuts.
Certification of the new regional carrier by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was slowed down as a result of the sequester cuts, which in turn has delayed launch, confirms Hawaiian.
The carrier intended to launch Ohana in July or August but now declines to comment on a timeline, pending certification.
“We’ve been continuing at a slower pace because of this,” says Timothy Komberec, president and chief executive of Idaho-based Empire Airlines, the regional carrier contracted to operate Ohana. “Until they find the travel funds, we can’t even set an in-service date because Hawaiian will need to sell tickets.”
The FAA has told Empire that it needs to send staff members to Hawaii to certify Ohana and monitor operations after service begins, he says.
Ohana will operate three 48-seat ATR 42-500s owned by Hawaiian on routes from Honolulu to Lana’i and Moloka’i as well as between cities like Hilo, Kahalui, Kona and Lihue.
The airline also hopes to serve West Maui, however, it requires special FAA approval to do so because of the airport’s short 914m runway.
“It’s a shame,” says Hawaiian on the delayed launch. “There is great excitement in the rural communities of Lana’i and Moloka’i about our plans to provide service there.”
Komberec says that the three ATRs are undergoing modifications at Empire’s Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, base. The first aircraft is in the paint shop currently, he adds.
“We recognise that they have big issues in front of them [but] this is a project that they committed to,” he says.