Free tickets draw thousands
|Photo gallery: Manila Tickets|
By Will Hoover
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Will Hoover
By 10 a.m. yesterday, Tamarind Park in Downtown Honolulu had reached human gridlock. An hour later, anyone who had wedged into the throng was having difficulty raising an arm to scratch a nose.
Still they came and continued to squeeze in.
The lure: 250 free roundtrip airline tickets to Manila.
Although virtually everyone at the happening received an entry blank, dozens began lining up in the middle of the night — somehow reasoning that getting there early would increase the odds. The drawing didn't begin until 12:30 p.m.
To appreciate the size of the gathering, imagine the largest number of people who ever showed at an autograph party for UH Warriors quarterback Colt Brennan, take it times two, and add hundreds of stragglers to the mix.
"You know what? We were expecting about 10,000 people," said Hawaiian Airlines sales and marketing employee, Liane Komatsu, one of an army of purple-shirted Hawaiian Airlines volunteers working the event. "And this looks like a lot more than that."
Billed as "Hawaiian's Great Manila Giveaway," the occasion was a promotion for Hawaiian Airlines flights to Manila beginning April 14 — the first U.S. airline to offer non-stop service between Hawai'i and the Philippines.
Mark Dunkerley, president and CEO of Hawaiian Airlines stressed that the 250 free tickets were all roundtrip.
"We like our customers to come back," said Dunkerley, who gazed at yesterday's crowd in wonderment and added, "I'm not the best judge of these things, but it looks to me like everybody's here today."
Conchita Cachero of Honolulu was there, looking closely at her number as Dunkerley drew out the very first winning ticket yesterday — and one of only 20 first class roundtrip tickets given away.
"Six, four, six, nine," said Dunkerley.
Cachero, 75, a retired doctor of pharmacy, did a double take and realized that 6469 was the exact number on her entry stub. Moments later, two volunteers were escorting a shaky Cachero to center stage, amid the cheers and applause of the multitude, and the best wishes of Dunkerley.
While it was obvious Cachero was nervous about being the center of so much attention, by the time she had completed half-dozen interviews in front of TV cameras, she had risen to the occasion.
"I need an agent," she shouted with a laugh.
Meanwhile, thousands of others waited to hear their own lucky numbers read off.
"Mine's 3373," said Alec Chinna, 46, of Kalihi, without even looking at his entry stub. "I'm not particular. I don't have to win one of the first class tickets. Any one of the 250 will be fine with me."
Throughout the afternoon, the numbers and the cheers continued, until, at 2:40 p.m, the last free ticket number was announced. It went to a woman named Evelyn Plata. Chinna, who was not among the winners, said he was nevertheless grateful — "just to get out of the house."
And, for the 9,750-plus others who also didn't win a free ticket, Dunkerley said his airline has a special promotional roundtrip ticket to the Philippines for only $848 — which, he hastened to add, "is really a very good value for the money, especially when you consider the price of fuel these days."
Reach Will Hoover at firstname.lastname@example.org.