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An Hawaiian Airlines Boeing 717 in Maui - Photo: Ben Granucci

A Hawaiian Airlines Boeing 717 in Maui – Photo: Ben Granucci

When it comes to places with an abundance of short-haul flying, it is hard to beat Hawaii. Many of the islands are small enough not to have all of the essential services that their residents may need, though within the chain of islands they are available. And in a place where tourism is the number one industry, there must be a way for visitors to access the majority of the state, even though the vast majority of flights to and from the islands arrive at a single airport.

Many island chains have ferry service, however in Hawaii that service remarkably doesn’t exist today. A short-lived high-speed ferry system that opened several years ago took hours to transit the roughly 100 mile distance between Oahu and Maui. It closed after a judge ruled that the permitting process was flawed and the operator went bankrupt. Inter-island flying is now the only way to go.

In Hawaii, flying is king and competition is fierce. The last decade has seen both the entry of new carriers into the marketplace and some high-profile failures. Historically, there were two tiers of airlines providing service between the islands: large commercial airlines that flew to both the mainland and to major airports within the state, and commuter airlines that linked the major airports with smaller outlying airports. However in the last ten years, those lines have become blurred. Today, the air transport industry in the state finds itself in a state of flux.