News causes a chaotic scramble
The uncertainty surrounding booked Aloha Airlines flights created chaos among travelers, booking agents, hotels and other airlines yesterday as the travel industry struggled to compensate for the loss of the interisland carrier.
Hundreds of people frantically called their travel agents to find out how their vacation plans would be hurt by the Aloha shutdown. Agents were trying to book them on other airlines.
Naomi Bennett, the owner of Maui Hawaii Vacations, came to work to help her reservations agents field calls. In just three hours, she took 22 calls.
"It's bad. They're flipping out," she said.
She said the airline shutdown will certainly hurt her business, and she doesn't believe she'll be the only one.
"This is a very sad day," she said.
With the closing of Aloha Airlines, 88,000 interisland seats per week will disappear, but Hawaiian Airlines and go! Airlines say they will add 56,000 new interisland seats to fill the gap.
Panda Travel was closed yesterday, but employees were making plans for a tidal wave of calls today.
"Aloha is a big one," said Mike Brown, a lead agent at Panda Travel. "It's a pretty big dent. We're working on how to sort it out."
Lynn Ham Young, who lives on Kaua'i, refused to believe that Aloha Airlines was shutting down. She said the economy can't handle the loss of the airline. "We need it," Young said, as she was in line at Honolulu International Airport to check in for a flight home. "It's a necessity."
In a scene on Maui that likely played out across the state yesterday, Maui United Soccer Club parents said they had paid $6,000 to Aloha to fly 50 players, coaches and parents to Honolulu for next weekend's HYSA state championships. They were trying to figure out what to do.
Information from Aloha was sketchy, and whether those who hold tickets with the airline can get any or some of their money back is unclear.
A release issued by the company said that passengers who have booked flights should contact their credit card companies or travel agents to inquire about refunds. Aloha said those who paid with cash or by check could file a claim with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.
No AlohaPass frequent-flier miles will be honored after today, and customers who booked hotel rooms and rental cars with AlohaPass reward credit were directed to contact the individual hotel or rental car agency.
United Airlines, Aloha's code-share partner, will rebook passengers holding United tickets on an alternative flight, where space is available, for no additional charge, according to the company. For customers traveling on an Aloha-issued ticket, United is offering a discounted one-way fare through the end of April.
Mesa Airlines announced that go! airline will increase the Honolulu flights it operates from an average of 54 a day to 94 flights beginning tomorrow. The company said that with the new service, go! will provide between 11 and 13 roundtrips a day between Honolulu and Maui, Lihue, Hilo and Kona. go! said it will offer all seats at $49 through April 7. In addition, go! is offering standby space at no charge to passengers holding Aloha paper and electronic tickets, through Thursday.
Hotels also were trying to make allowances for Aloha passengers.
Marriott Resorts Hawaii is offering a 50 percent discount for up to three nights for guests at Marriott properties stranded in Hawai'i as a result of the shutdown. Aloha ticket holders staying at other hotels are being offered a kama'aina rate, and the company was waiving penalties for reservations that can't be met because of Aloha's passenger service shutdown.
"Marriott Resorts Hawaii is saddened to see Aloha Airlines' long history and commitment to serving the Hawaiian Islands come to an end. The company expresses its sympathies to Aloha's employees and their families," said Ed Hubennette, vice president of North Asia, Hawaii & South Pacific for Marriott International.
Aqua Hotels & Resorts, which owns eleven properties in Waikiki, was offering three free nights to travelers stuck in Waikiki because of the loss of Aloha service. The offer is based on room availability, and those looking to take advantage of the service must present their return Aloha Airlines ticket stub.
"I know that visitors, including some of our guests, will be scrambling to rebook their return flights home, and I don't want them worrying about the expense of spending a few additional nights in Waikiki," said Mike Paulin, owner and CEO of Aqua Hotels and Resorts.
Some passengers at the airport were just getting the news as they stood in line to check in for flights yesterday. Others, mostly frequent fliers, were wondering what the shutdown would mean for fares.
"I think the prices are definitely going to go up," said Aloha passenger Jeff Malate, who lives in Hilo, but whose family lives on O'ahu. He said Aloha has been in the market since he was a child. Not having it there, he added, will be like losing a good friend. "I've always remembered them being around," he said.