Edited by: Jessica Merritt
& Keri Stooksbury
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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
Cabin and Layout: Economy class, 9-seats, 1-1 config
Miles Used: $88
Typical Retail Cost: Approximately $50 to $150, depending on the day
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.
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!
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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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Mokulele Airlines exclusively flies Cessna 208B EX Grand Caravan aircraft.
Mokulele Airlines is owned by Southern Airways Express.
Mokulele Airlines is based in Kailua-Kona (KOA).
The main airlines that fly between the islands of Hawaii are Southwest Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, and Mokulele Airlines.
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