A Hawaiian airline known for flights between islands wants to leap between continents, connecting Rockford with Honolulu in March, and London in May.
Thursday, it got support from the Greater Rockford Airport Authority, which said it would agree a one-year, $1.4 million revenue guarantee for Mokulele to launch both routes, pending FAA approval. Hawaii service could start March 16.
“Tonight, this is our commitment to that process,” said Amy Ott, interim director at Chicago Rockford International Airport.
Adding flights to Honolulu International Airport and London’s Stansted Airport, about an hour north of the city center, would fit well with the airport’s focus on vacation travelers, and give it a long-coveted international route.
“Part of our strategic plan is to grow our destination base and in particular grow our international base,” said Ott. “We believe both of these products will fit with what we offer.”
The airport has been aggressive with revenue guarantees to entice airlines to fly from Rockford. It has deals with Frontier Airlines‘ route to Denver, which makes its inaugural flight Friday morning from Rockford, and Apple Vacations to both Cancun, Mexico, and Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.
Such deals ensure that airlines won’t lose money on a route because the airport will subsidize it if it doesn’t meet performance thresholds.
While the Mokulele agreement could potentially cost $1.4 million – $700,000 per route — that’s the worse case scenario. Ott said the deal’s structure may be advantageous to the airport. On the first 26 flights, the airport’s exposure is $18,000; on the second 26 flights, it’s $9,000 per flight.
Ott said that both flights will start during peak travel seasons, when the airport’s exposure is greatest but also when tickets sales are likely to be strong. In addition, London hosts the Olympics next summer and will be a hot ticket.
Ott said internal airport projections suggest the airport’s exposure on each route is $200,000 to $400,000.
Phil Rubin, airport commissioner, said the potential charter deals is “stepping out of the box a little bit.”
“This is an investment,” Rubin said. “We don’t look at it as an expense.”