Air travel between Hawaii and Japan was practically grounded yesterday after air carriers canceled 31 flights because of the earthquake and the tsunami it generated, the state Department of Transportation said.
Only a Delta flight from Nagano arrived at 8:30 a.m. in Honolulu, said transportation spokesman Dan Meisenzahl. A Hawaiian Airlines flight from Haneda was delayed and was scheduled to land in Honolulu last night.
But 15 flights to Hawaii and 16 flights to Japan were canceled, Meisenzahl said.
Fearing their planes would find runways awash with debris, air carriers decided to cancel flights before the tsunami reached Hawaii, Meisenzahl said. Their decision not to fly was bolstered by the fact that diversion airports at Midway and Wake islands were shut down, he said.
Although American Airlines also canceled a flight from Honolulu to Los Angeles, other mainland flights were unaffected.
Seven interisland flights were canceled.
All of the state’s airports are now open, and there was no tsunami-related damage reported, Meisenzahl said.
"It feels like we dodged a bullet, especially when you see what is happening in Japan," Meisenzahl said. "It’s scary."
On Thursday night, visitors in Waikiki huddled in high-rise parking garages and ballrooms or in hotel rooms and other accommodations four stories or higher as the tsunami waves approached Hawaii.
Although some missed their tours and airline flights home, visitors said they were happy no one was injured in Waikiki and had high praise for the way hotel staff and police handled the evacuation.
"It was a perfect example of aloha. … It was a good vibe. People took it seriously," said Mike Mullin, a South Dakota visitor who was visiting with his wife, Carol.
"We were quite impressed by the way they talked about the evacuation."
Honeymooners Kenneth Canfield and his wife, Christi, of Washington state said they were among the more than 100 guests from the Moana Surfrider Hotel who were escorted across Kalakaua Avenue to a Sheraton ballroom for the night.
"I think it was handled very professionally," Kenneth Canfield said.
"Waikiki P.D. (police) did a very good job."
Canfield said the Moana provided guests with a complimentary breakfast with fresh fruit.
Eri Ishihara and her friend Ryota said they were scheduled to fly back to Japan yesterday, but their flight on Japan Airlines was canceled.
Ishihara was on her way to talk to travel agents to see whether they might be able to get a flight without additional expenses.
"I am worried we can’t go back Japan," she said. "We don’t have money."
As traffic thinned to a few cars at Waikiki intersections Thursday as midnight approached, lines formed outside the only convenience store open in the Sheraton Waikiki.
People were buying water, soft drinks, fruit and chips.
John O’Dea of Vancouver, British Columbia, said he had arrived in Honolulu just a couple of hours earlier with his wife and two children and had a question for the flight crew upon landing.
"I asked, ‘Why don’t you turn around?’" he said.