Anyone else love flying in a tiny plane? Just me? Sometimes it feels like that! Tiny planes get me excited. Tiny planes take me where the big jets can’t go. Tiny planes are transportation and a scenic flight all in one! On our recent trip to Lana’i, Steve and I island hopped with Mokulele Airlines by Southern Airways. Here’s what it’s like!
More here: What to Know Before You Visit Lana’i
Mokulele is a small airline that operates inter-island flights within the Hawaiian islands. It serves several rural areas that otherwise have no airline service, such as Hana and Kapalua on Mau’i, and Kalaupapa on Molokai. And, of course, Lana’i. The only Hawaiian islands they do not serve are Kaua’i and Ni’ihau. Mokulele also has routes in California, and a few years ago, the airline was acquired by Southern Airways, another small airline with routes in New England, the Mid-Atlantic, the Gulf Region, and the Rocky Mountain.
‘Ohana by Hawaiian Airlines previously flew to Lana’i prior to the pandemic, but they have since stopped. Now the options are either Mokulele or a charter flight with Lana’i Air, the private airline owned by Larry Ellison, who also owns the island of Lana’i.
If you’re on Molokai, you can fly Mokulele Airlines from Ho’olehua to Kalaupapa:
Everything You Need to Know about Visiting the Kalaupapa Peninsula on Molokai
You can buy your tickets through some of the larger airlines, such as United, Delta, or American, but it may be more expensive to do so. There are two benefits to doing this:
- You can check your bags through instead of collecting them at baggage claim at your airport of entry, and then re-checking them on Mokulele.
- If you miss your connection, the larger airline will be responsible for re-booking you as soon as possible (which may not be until the next day anyway).
We didn’t worry about those things too much, since we always travel carry-on only, and we had about a three hour layover in Honolulu. So, instead of paying double the price per person to book through the United website with our IAD-HNL reservation, we chose to book directly with Mokulele on their website. We saved $118 per person by booking this way!
Terminal 3 in Honolulu
When we arrived in Honolulu (HNL), we knew from a previous inter-island flight experience that we needed to take the Wiki Wiki Shuttle to a different terminal. We would have walked if we could have, but it’s pretty far. The Wiki Wiki Shuttles run continuously and transport passengers to various other terminals to connect to inter-island flights like ours. Be prepared to tell the Wiki Wiki driver what airline you’re flying with to make sure you’re on the right shuttle!
There was some construction going on at HNL when we arrived, so things were a little confusing. We eventually got on the correct shuttle and made our way to Terminal 3. There was no extra security, and we didn’t even receive a boarding pass when we checked in (there is no app and no way to check in before you arrive–it’s like flying in 1995, y’all). It was all very informal!
But first, you have to get to HNL: Surviving the Flight to Hawaii in Economy
Our flight to Lana’i was delayed, but we eventually got there! You will have to give a weight estimate for yourself and your luggage, as you will be seated according to weight and balance for Mokulele’s 208EX Grand Caravan aircraft. Planes seat up to 9 people, plus the pilot and co-pilot up front. You may be asked to help close the cabin door from the inside! When everyone is secured inside, the pilot will turn around from his seat up fromt and do your safety briefing, and then you’re ready to go.
Every seat is both a window seat and an aisle seat, so you really have the best of both worlds on tiny flights like this. I love being able to look outside and see the islands. Since smaller planes don’t fly as high, you’re really able to get up-close and personal views!
The flight was only about 40 minutes each way between HNL and Lana’i (LNY). There was no security at LNY on the way back to HNL, so everything was smooth and easy!
More here: The Best Tips for New Travelers
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