Airlines canceled more than 140 flights in and out of Hawaii and between islands, and thousands of passengers scrambled to make alternative travel plans as back-to-back hurricanes moved in on the state Thursday.
Tourism officials and airlines are telling customers to monitor their flight status online and make changes before arriving at the airport. They warned that wait times on the phone could exceed one hour. Some airlines are waiving cancellation or change fees.
There were 78 flights canceled Thursday and 68 canceled Friday with airlines taking a wait-and-see approach on further cancellations. Other flights were delayed to time their arrivals or departures around Iselle, which was downgraded to a tropical storm late Thursday, and Hurricane Julio close behind.
Status of flights can be checked on individual airlines’ websites and at the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s special site at www.hawaiitourismauthority.org/news/special-alert.
Carriers that have canceled flights include Air China, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Fiji Air, Hawaiian Airlines, Island Air, Jetstar Airways, Mokulele Airlines, ‘Ohana by Hawaiian, United Airlines, US Airways and WestJet.
Hawaiian, the state’s largest carrier, took the unusual step to move up the departure time of its Maui-Los Angeles flight Thursday by nearly five hours to 5 p.m. from 9:40 p.m. That flight then connected to L.A. from Honolulu at 9:40 p.m. Passengers were called by the airline’s reservation agents and airport customer service personnel about the change, and 208 made the Maui-Honolulu connection aboard a Boeing 767.
Spokeswoman Ann Botticelli called the expedited flight "very unusual" and said the approximately 50 passengers who didn’t make the flight will be accommodated on other flights leaving Maui when the storm passes.
Earlier in the afternoon, Maryland resident Geri Ann Fuller, who had just arrived from Los Angeles on an American Airlines flight, sat curbside waiting for a shuttle bus to Waikiki. She said friends and family told her to cancel her business trip because of the hurricanes, but she looked up at the sunny sky and pronounced she was ready to hit the beach.
"I was in Southern California, and the first thing I heard on the news when I woke up was two hurricanes were coming into Hawaii on Thursday," she recalled. "And I said, ‘Oh great, I’m going to Hawaii on Thursday.’ I was a bit concerned. My family and friends thought I should cancel the trip, but I’m here for business and I’m not coming for vacation. So I came anyway, and the sky is blue and it’s warm and beautiful, and I’m going to check into my hotel and go to the beach."
For Makakilo’s Kili Perkins, who was boarding a Hawaiian Airlines flight to Las Vegas with friend Megan Ho, the timing couldn’t have been better.
"We planned this trip from February," Perkins said with a laugh. "The timing was perfect. Everybody’s jealous of us that we’re leaving when the storm is coming."
Lauren Bucher, who was returning to her home in downtown Honolulu, wasn’t as fortunate with her timing after getting off an Alaska Airlines flight from Seattle.
"I’m a little nervous," she said. "I’ve never been in a hurricane before. I’m just going to stock up and prepare for it. We have some water stocked up, but we might get some more food."
Then there were passengers such as Hawaii Kai’s Daisy Carreon, whose nonprofit company, McREL International, wasn’t taking any chances and moved her flight up a full day on United Airlines so she could leave Thursday to Guam instead of Friday. Her eventual destination is the Micronesian island of Yap.
"It was a little bit of an inconvenience because I had to go home, get packed and get everything ready," Carreon said. "I have a dog, so I had to get him ready, too."