“The flight’s full; it feels good,” a man in first class says to the steward on a Mokulele Airlines flight to Kauai. The man is Bill Boyer, an owner of the interisland carrier.
An unassuming guy, when Boyer is on a flight he often personally thanks passengers for their business. This time though, Mokulele steward Kekai Lum did it for him (see video clip). Lum is one of 54 former Aloha Airlines’ employees now working for Mokulele. After passengers deplane, Boyer and his companion joined Lum to prep the cabin for the next flight. Boyer always does that, Lum explains.
Mokulele employees, it seems, are all doing double, even triple duty to contribute to the carrier’s success. Between flight, Kekai helps with Mokulele’s marketing.
Before I boarded I eavesdropped on some local business folks dressed for golf. “We gotta support these guys (Mokulele). Otherwise, get no checks and balances… We get monopoly.”
In 2007, two years after Boyer bought Mokulele, a local business journal described the Kailua-Kona-based independent commuter airline as a scrappy little carrier. Now, amidst economic challenges and market opportunity, Mokulele’s fleet size is at 13 with seven destinations. Recently 50% of the airline’s shares were acquired by Republic Airways.
Boyer’s airline experience predates Mokulele. As a baggage handler with Alaska Airlines, he conceived what became the first self-contained portable video-on-demand in-flight entertainment device. The device is now on about 75 airlines. Boyer sold the company in 2003.
As Hawaii settles into life without Aloha Airlines, and Hawaiian Airlines emerges with 65 percent of the market share (up from 45 percent), residents are considering the merits of supporting this scrappy little airline.
Mokulele is Hawaiian for airplane or “flying ship.”