In the wide world of commercial air travel, the Waimea airport code, “MUE.” may be one of the rarest of the unique three-letter airport codes in use. It was retired a few months ago, when Pacific Wings officially stopped providing airline service to the Waimea-Kohala airport, but will soon be printed on tickets once again.
Starting Saturday, Sept. 21, residents of North Hawaii have a convenient option for flying to Maui and Oahu that does not involve the 40-mile drive to the Keahole airport in Kona. Mokulele Airlines has received a four-year contract with the Federal government to provide subsidized commercial air service from the state-owned Waimea-Kohala airport to Kahului, Maui, with connecting flights to and from Honolulu.
According to the State Department of Transportation, the single-runway Waimea-Kohala airport was constructed in 1953, replacing a military air strip that had been built by the U.S. Marines during the Second World War. Commercial airline service from the airport was popular for many years, peaking at more than 70,000 passengers per year in the mid-1970’s. When Pacific Wings dropped their subsidized schedule in 2007, the number of commercial passengers was reduced to just a handful, and attempts to book flights on their website resulted in the message, “Sorry there are no flights available.”
“Our airport is important to this community,” said Margaret Wille, county councilwoman, District 9. “Mokulele is providing convenient flights in newer planes — this improves the quality of life for our residents,” she said.
The new Mokulele schedule includes 12 flights per week in and out of Waimea-Kohala, listed on their website as “Kamuela-Waimea.” Daily morning flights leave MUE at 7 a.m. and arrive at 7:45 a.m. in Kahului. This flight continues on to Honolulu, arriving there at 9 a.m. Returning flights leave Honolulu daily at 5 p.m., stopping in Kahului at 5:55 p.m., eventually arriving in Waimea at 7 p.m. Five days per week, additional afternoon flights connect Kahului and Waimea. Thursday through Monday, flights depart Waimea at 2:20 p.m., arriving in Kahului at 3:05 p.m, and return flights depart Kahului at 1:15 p.m. and arrive in Waimea at 2 p.m.
Passengers checking in for their flights need to arrive at the airport 30 minutes prior to departure, and are not subject to Transportation Security Administration procedures. Carry-on and checked bags have weight and size restrictions, with surcharges added for heavy or large items. Overnight parking is available at the airport.
Fares for the flights as posted on the Mokulele Airlines website are $69 one-way to Kahului, and $99 one-way to Honolulu.
To read a history of the Waimea-Kohala airport, visit http://hawaii.gov/hawaiiaviation/hawaii-airfields-airports/hawaii/waimea.... For current information on flight schedules and fares, visit Mokulele Airlines website at http://www.mokuleleairlines.com.