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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, January 11, 2002

Frustration building over slow mail delivery to Islands

By Tanya Bricking
Advertiser Staff Writer

Some Hawai'i residents are opting for firms such as UPS to deliver packages.

Associated Press library photo

Snail mail has a new pace on its crawl to Hawai'i: It's even slower.

The U.S. Postal Service is tacking days and even weeks onto arrival times for mail headed to the Islands.

Many monthly magazine home subscriptions, now shipped by sea rather than air, are ending up in mailboxes a month late, even when air shipments are getting publications to newsstands on time.

And complications in the mail network are making accurate estimate times for priority-mail packages anybody's guess.

"It's hard to say when it comes," said Larry Hiona, a carrier for 21 years who delivers to the Ala Moana route. "When it comes, it comes."

In Makiki, Hans Williander, 64, is still waiting for Christmas packages from New York, Massachusetts and California. He says he tries not to worry about things he can't control.

In Waipahu, 30-year-old Lou Cabacungan is wondering when her Women's Day magazine will arrive. Online gift orders she placed with Mainland companies never showed up in time for Christmas. "But I'm getting bills on time," she said.

The Postal Service says it's still identifying trouble spots. It explains the complications are part of the inconvenience of living on islands. And, like many of the world's problems, Sept. 11 is getting the blame.

"Mail flow is largely dependent on transportation," said Felice Broglio, Postal Service spokeswoman for Hawai'i. "Essentially, Sept. 11 changed our entire system."

It caused the service to scramble for cargo contracts, because it can no longer rely solely on commercial flights to bring mail. Mail routes and methods were disrupted on the Mainland, creating bottlenecks.

And it overwhelmed Honolulu's processing plant, where so much mail comes on two daily cargo flights that the system that used to be round-the-clock is clogged.

"It's kind of like the rubble at Ground Zero," Broglio said. "It's too much to clear overnight."

Most first-class mail still comes on passenger airlines. But lower-priority mail, a category which includes many magazines, is being shifted to the "slow boat," which takes four to six weeks from the East Coast.

Neighbor Islands must wait another day or two for cargo shipments. The delay is even worse in American Samoa and Guam. Guam now gets mail three or four times a week, at best, Broglio said.

That brings little comfort to Jef Danchisen, 44, of downtown.

His frustration stems from ordering checks from the Mainland and wondering where they were 17 days later. He canceled the order and tried again. But he is losing faith in the system.

"I don't use the post office for anything that's important to me," he said. "I'll spend the money to FedEx it if it means anything to me."

The Postal Service wants satisfied customers, Broglio said, but it's going to take months to fix a system the public used to take for granted — one that sends 2 million letters and packages in and out of Honolulu every day.

Correction: Delays in mail delivery of magazines to Hawai'i after Sept. 11 occurred because mail routes and methods were disrupted on the Mainland, creating bottlenecks. Other information was included in a previous version of this story.