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Mokulele Airlines Cessna 208B EX Grand Caravan Economy Class Review [LNY to OGG]

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James Larounis
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James Larounis

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James (Jamie) started The Forward Cabin blog to educate readers about points, miles, and loyalty programs. He’s spoken at Princeton University and The New York Times Travel Show and has been quoted in...
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Airline: Mokulele Airlines (9X)
Aircraft: Cessna 208B EX Grand Caravan
Flight #: 9X759
Route: Lanai Airport (LNY) to Kahului Airport (OGG)
Date: December 14, 2022
Duration: 29min
Cabin and Layout: Economy class, 9-seats, 1-1 config
Seat(s): 2B
Miles Used: $88
Typical Retail Cost: Approximately $50 to $150, depending on the day

Introduction

When you’re in Hawaii, there are really only 3 airlines that can fly you between the various islands — Hawaiian Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and Mokulele Airlines. Of the 3 airlines, only Mokulele serves the remote cities of Hana (HNM) and Lanai (LNY), among several others, so if you’re looking to explore some off-the-beaten-path destinations, you’ll likely need to utilize Mokulele.

Flying Mokulele is a very unique experience. It only flies the Cessna 208B EX Grand Caravan, a small commuter-type aircraft used for island hopping. This is a very no-frills experience, but this small airline and the aircraft it uses are integral to flying in Hawaii.

Booking Mokulele Airlines Economy Class

I booked my flight for $88 which included ~$82 as a base fare and ~$6 in taxes.

Mokulele flights show up in most online search engines, and you can book your flight on Mokulele’s website as well. Your easiest bet is to book these flights online, though you can just as well book in-person at the airport, too, as a few locals do. Keep in mind that Mokulele operates small planes, so they can easily sell out. Don’t wait to book!

When booking flights, you should use any credit card that earns you extra miles for booking either directly with the airline or for travel. The Platinum Card® from American Express is a great card to use since it earns 5x Membership Rewards points on flights purchased directly with the airline or with AmexTravel.com (up to $500,000 per year).

Unfortunately, since Mokulele is such a small airline, you won’t find it easy to book with miles or points, unless you book through a credit card’s travel portal where you can cover the charge with your points.

Hot Tip: Check to see if you’re eligible for a welcome bonus offer of up to 125k (or 150k) points with the Amex Platinum. The current public offer is 80,000 points. (This targeted offer was independently researched and may not be available to all applicants.)

At Lanai Airport

As far as desolate airports, Lanai Airport (LNY) is one of the remotest I’ve flown out of. There’s nothing in the way of amenities, and because each flight only accommodates up to 9 guests, you can expect an extremely streamlined flying experience.

Lanai Airport Exterior
The exterior of Lanai Airport.

Arriving at the airport, you’ll notice just how quiet it is. Lanai Airport has scheduled departures to Honolulu (HNL) and Kahului (OGG) in Maui, with several regular charter planes departing throughout the day as well. While not busy, there’s a regular stream of small groups of passengers flying out, mainly coming from the 2 resorts on the island, both belonging to Four Seasons (Four Seasons Resort Lanai and Sensei Lanai, A Four Seasons Resort).

Hot Tip: Wherever your travels take you in Hawaii, check out our ultimate travel guides to Oahu, the Big Island, Lanai, Maui, and Kauai

I was departing from the Four Seasons Resort Lanai and arrived on a complimentary shuttle bus to the airport approximately an hour before departure. This was a policy set by the hotel, and unfortunately, I couldn’t arrive later, but it’s worth knowing that there is absolutely no reason to arrive early for your flight. There are no security checks flying out of this airport, and due to the few passengers on each flight, you board only a few minutes before your scheduled departure. Unlike every other U.S. airport, this is one airport where you can arrive at the last minute.

Lanai Airport Baggage Claim
There are no luggage belts at Lanai.

After pulling into the airport, I walked a few feet over to the Mokulele check-in desk where 2 agents were standing. These agents were the only employees working the passenger terminal, and dual-roled as both check-in agents and ground handling staff. There’s really no formal check-in process — you simply tell the person your name and your weight and you’re told you’re good to go. If you’re checking a bag, you need to pay a $20 checked bag fee and there’s no way to avoid it.

Mukulele Check In Lanai
There’s a single check-in counter for Mokulele and Lanai.

I was bringing on a backpack and a normal carry-on-size suitcase, but because this plane has no overhead bin space or storage within the passenger cabin, I was forced to check what ordinarily is a carry-on bag. I paid the fee to the agent and they tagged my bag to Maui.

After that, I was free to explore the airport, and, boy, was there nothing there. There’s an unmanned security desk, a pay phone, and a vending machine. That’s it. Seriously.

Lanai Airport Security Desk
I think the security guard was off the day I flew.

This airport doesn’t require normal TSA screening like you’re probably used to. Once you check-in, you’re free to board and walk right onto the plane. If you’re landing in Maui or Honolulu and then traveling onto an onward flight on another airline, that’s where you’ll go through security, but for interisland flights on this small of a plane, security is not required.

Lanai Airport Terminal Gate
There are 4 “gates” at this airport, but all lead outside to a single staging area.

Boarding

After walking around the airport for a few minutes trying to find the lounge (I kid, I kid), I decided to sit down in one of several rows of terminal seating. It’s almost as if the airport was expecting a big crowd! I was able to watch the incoming flight from Maui land, and after the pilots did their checks and used the bathroom, we were allowed to board.

Lanai Airport Boarding Process
Boarding is a very streamlined process in Lanai.

You’re not assigned seats in advance like most airlines. Based on your weight, you’re provided a seat number at check-in, allowing for even distribution across the plane for safety reasons.

Mukulele Plane at LNY
There are no jet bridges at LNY airport.

I was told to sit in row 2, though wasn’t specifically told what seat to sit in. I chose the seat on the right-hand side.

Mukulele Plane Row 2 Single Seat
I was told to sit in row 2 in a single seat.

Flight

Boarding is a quick process. After all, there were only 9 passengers, so within just a few minutes we were loaded onto the plane and ready to go. Mokulele operates 11 of these aircraft, and each is configured the exact same way with 4 rows of 1 seat on either side and a single bench seat in the back for a single passenger.

Mukulele Plane Interior Seats Facing Rear
The plane almost looks like a bus from the inside!

As far as a safety briefing, the pilot plays an automated announcement and then asks through the curtain separating the cabin from the cockpit if you have any questions. That’s it. There’s no actual demonstration of equipment, and the safety demo simply plays over a PA system.

Mukulele Plane Cockpit
All that separates you from the cockpit is a small curtain.

Legroom is quite tight, and I had my backpack with me that needed to be stowed underneath the seat in front of me, further restricting what legroom I had.

Selfie on Mukulele Plane
I was trying to hide my nervousness before we took off.

Within a few more moments, we were taxiing along the runway to take off and we lifted off to Maui. The flight time is very short — maybe only about 20 minutes once we took off. There’s absolutely no inflight service at all, and there’s no flight attendant either.

Mukulele Inflight Magazines
You’ll need to occupy yourself with magazines for the short hop across the water.

You’re on your own for the short hop across the water, but the view provides some excellent inflight entertainment. There’s no bathroom onboard, so you’ll need to hold it for the flight.

Mukulele Views to OGG
You fly so slowly to Maui that the views are incredible.

Arrival

The flight to Maui is pretty much a straight shot, so before you know it, you’re on the ground and taxiing to the commuter terminal. Once you land and park, your bags are immediately unloaded and you claim them planeside. For some passengers, Maui was their final destination, so you just walk through a fenced area and you’re out into the parking lot.

Hot Tip: Allow plenty of time if you’re connecting between Mokulele and another airline, as you’ll have to clear security in your connecting airport.

For other passengers, they were connecting onto more mainline airlines such as Hawaiian, American, or Delta, for example, and for that, you need to walk from the commuter terminal to the main terminal … about a 5-minute walk along a sidewalk.

Mukulele OGG
The arrivals area at OGG is open-air.

Final Thoughts

This was one of the coolest flights I’ve ever taken, and unlike many flights reviewed out there, it wasn’t because of the seat or service. Flying out of a remote airport is certainly one heck of an experience, and then jumping aboard a puddle jumper on a short flight between islands is just a truly one-of-a-kind experience, it can’t really be duplicated anywhere else in the U.S.!

For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of planes does Mokulele fly?

Mokulele Airlines exclusively flies Cessna 208B EX Grand Caravan aircraft.

Who is Mokulele owned by?

Mokulele Airlines is owned by Southern Airways Express.

Where is Mokulele Airlines based?

Mokulele Airlines is based in Kailua-Kona (KOA).

What airlines fly between islands in Hawaii?

The main airlines that fly between the islands of Hawaii are Southwest Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, and Mokulele Airlines.

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About James Larounis

James (Jamie) started The Forward Cabin blog to educate readers about points, miles, and loyalty programs. He’s spoken at Princeton University and The New York Times Travel Show and has been quoted in dozens of travel publications.

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