Photo credit: Hawaiian Airlines is closing its Ohana regional subsidiary. Hawaiian Airlines
Hawaiian Airlines has pulled the plug on its regional turboprop subsidiary, Ohana, which had been temporarily grounded in January. The carrier cited a lack of sustainable restart options for the decision.
The closure of Ohana will affect 92 staff at third-party operator Empire Airways, and will drop three airports from Hawaiian’s map — Lana’i, Moloka’i and West Maui/Kapalua. The three cities will continue to be served by Southern Air Express subsidiary Mokulele Airlines, according to Cirium schedules.
“This is a heartbreaking decision … We took a hard look at the service and could not identify a way to restart and sustainably operate,” Hawaiian CEO Peter Ingram said in a statement Thursday. He added that Hawaiian did not see a feasible path to resuming Ohana flights before year-end.
Hawaiian has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. The airline’s operations were severely limited when its home state closed to outside visitors, except those willing to endure a two-week quarantine, during the first seven months of the crisis. And even since then, many foreign visitors have stayed away from Hawaii due to travel or re-entry restrictions in their home countries. As a result, Hawaiian has pivoted to trying to new domestic routes, including to Austin and Orlando.
The Honolulu-based carrier swung from a $224 million net profit in 2019 to a $510 million net loss in 2020 even with relief from the CARES Act and federal payroll support programs. Hawaiian lost another $61 million in the first quarter and had 11 of its 69 aircraft stored — including its eight Ohana ATR 42s and 72s — at the end of March.
Ohana’s closure is the latest regional airline loss in the U.S. as a result of the pandemic. Compass Airlines, ExpressJet Airlines and Trans States Airlines all shut down in 2020.
But Ohana’s closure may not come as a complete surprise. In 2019, load factors on its passenger flights averaged just 52 percent, according to U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics data via Cirium. Loads on Hawaiian’s mainline jet operations in Hawaii were more than 20 points higher at 73.5 percent.
Hawaiian launched Ohana’s passenger flights in 2014 and added dedicated freighters in 2018. The former continued to January when they were suspended due to travel restrictions among the Hawaiian islands, while the latter were suspended in November 2020.
Hawaiian is ferrying the ATRs to the U.S. mainland for sale, it said. And the airline is lending some of Ohana’s ground handling equipment to Mokulele for use in Lana’i and Moloka’i.