Mokulele Airlines (Kona) will lay off 10% of its workforce as it aims to reach profitability amid plans to merge with Southern Airways Express (9X, Memphis International).

Mokulele Airlines' president, Rob McKinney, said an internal company email seen by KITV4 that job cuts was only one of several measures being pursued by the Hawaii-based regional carrier to curb monthly losses.

"These reductions are a one-time cut required to 'right-size' our staffing," he said. "It hurts to have to make decisions like this, but in the end, our company has to survive and ultimately thrive!?"

Mokulele has also underscored Southwest Airlines' impending entry into the Hawaiian domestic market as a key threat to its future operations.

"With Southwest aggressively entering the market, we have to focus on running a perfect operation while keeping fares low in order to prosper," a company spokesperson said in an email to KITV4. "We have always been an expansion airline and hopefully, with additional interline agreements from major carriers, we will soon be able to announce expanded routes and frequency as the demand increases."

Mokulele Airlines operates a fleet of fourteen Cessna (single turboprop) 208B Grand Caravans and two PC-12s on flights covering the Hawaiian archipelago as well as between Los Angeles International and El Centro Imperial Country on the US mainland. The two Pilatus props are used to run Lanai Air-branded flights between Honolulu and Lanai City, Maui, in conjunction with Four Seasons Resorts.

Once its take-over by Southern Airways Express has been completed, expected later this summer, Mokulele Airways will exist only as a brand and not as a separate, certificated carrier.