Power failure snarls Honolulu air travel
Passengers endure screening delays at security checkpoints and canceled flights
Thirty-four-year-old Delta Thompson had just stepped out of a Honolulu Airport elevator at the interisland terminal when the ground started to shake.
"With every step, it felt like a moving staircase," said Thompson, of Kailua-Kona. "It didn't feel like my feet were touching the ground."
Thompson and thousands of other passengers packed the interisland and main terminals during a day-long power failure tripped by yesterday's earthquakes which caused havoc in travel plans.
Nearly all power had been restored to the airport by 5:45 p.m., said Scott Ishikawa, spokesman of the Department of Transportation. Still, many flights were canceled, here and on the mainland, forcing residents to improvise while they were stuck.
Several airports on the neighbor islands experienced brief outages but were up and running by about 10 a.m., state tourism liaison Marsha Wienert said.
At Kahului Airport at about noon, the waiting lines for Honolulu- and mainland-bound flights were long. While the power also went out at Kahului Airport, emergency generators were activated after 10 to 15 minutes, enabling federal security officers to resume searching outgoing travelers.
Still, United Airlines halted flights yesterday into and out of Maui, and American TransAir canceled its 1:15 p.m. departure to Los Angeles, Maui County spokeswoman Ellen Pelissero said.
In Honolulu, United Airlines, American Airlines, Northwest Airlines and Delta Airlines canceled several flights.
Robert Whitton of Kaaawa was stuck at a Portland, Ore., airport for seven hours yesterday before staff at Northwest Airlines informed passengers that the earliest rescheduled flights will be available tomorrow. It is frustrating, said Whitton, who works for a software company.
International flights also were rescheduled, with Japan Airlines rescheduling six flights yesterday.
CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
International passengers sat by their luggage yesterday morning at Honolulu Airport. The airport was brought to a virtual standstill after earthquakes and a subsequent power failure on Oahu. CLICK FOR LARGE
Hawaiian Airlines and Aloha Airlines continued to fly all day, but the manual screening at the Honolulu airport dramatically slowed the check-in, Wienert said. Power to the security checkpoints at the interisland terminal was down, she said.
Wienert said Island Air and go! airlines also operated throughout the day.
"Tomorrow, everything should be back to normal at all airports," Wienert said, but Ishikawa suggested travelers check with the airline before heading to the airport.
Ishikawa said Honolulu Airport has a generator that only supplies auxiliary power to the runways and security system.
During the outage, staff at Aloha Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines were forced to process tickets manually. Airport security also checked bags by hand. Sniffing dogs also assisted in agricultural checks.
At the main terminal, all passengers were funneled through one security checkpoint near Japan Airlines' ticket counter.
Jetways were also down, and airport employees escorted passengers from the aircraft onto the tarmac. Shuttles were used to transport passengers from the tarmac to the terminal.
Passengers and luggage filled nearly all the open space along the sidewalks and terminals at Honolulu Airport.
While some were frustrated with the delayed or rescheduled flights, some took it in stride by playing cards with friends or reading a book.
Thompson said he was scheduled to fly to London to celebrate his birthday with his father and grandmother, whose birthdays are also this month.
Soon after the earthquakes occurred, Thompson called his mother on the Big Island to find out what was damaged at his house. The news was not good: Many items in his antique tiki collection dating back to the 1850s were destroyed.
Some of his poi pounders flew across the living room as the quake shook his home, said his mother, Amber Silva, adding that damage to her son's collection was in the thousands of dollars.
"I don't want to see the damage," Thompson said.
At the Honolulu interisland terminal, Malia Kamahele sat on the ground next to her bags in hopes of catching the next flight back home to Kihei.
Before she arrived at the airport, Kamahele, 37, said she was in the bathroom at a Mililani home when the house started to rock back and forth. "We were scared," she said, noting this was the first time she and her family members had experienced an earthquake.
"It was unbelievable," she said.
Passengers Justin and Crystal Barnes said they were asleep at a Kailua home when their bed started to rattle and a pictured frame hanging above the bed fell. "I didn't think they had earthquakes out here in Hawaii," said Justin Barnes, 30, who was heading back to San Diego after attending a wedding. "This is higher than any I've ever felt."
Tami and Paul Saffell of Taylor, Mich., were asleep in their cabin on the Norwegian cruise ship Pride of Aloha when they felt the ship aggressively sway back and forth while they were docked at Aloha Tower Marketplace.
The couple and other passengers were guided through the ship terminal by staff equipped with flashlights after the elevators and escalators shut down.
Star-Bulletin reporter Gary T. Kubota contributed to this report.