FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
A boisterous crowd of employees was on hand at Gate 54 at Honolulu Airport's interisland terminal to greet passengers as they deplaned Aloha Airlines' last flight, No. 261, from Kahului last night.
Thank you for flying
Aloha Airlines planes bring passengers here for the last time, and workers say goodbye
Like vapor trails across the sky, hopes for a last-minute resurrection for moribund Aloha Airlines grew thin and finally vanished yesterday, leaving memories, tears, financial fears and, predictably, recriminations.
And about 700 passengers stranded in Hawaii.
About 1,000 people, mostly Aloha employees, jammed the interisland terminal last night to witness the end of an era. Screams echoed throughout the terminal when the last flight arrived about 10:40 p.m. from Kahului. They cheered passengers as they deplaned.
Tamie Stanley, 34, a reservationist with Aloha, decided to go at the last minute. "Coming in for landing, knowing it was our last flight, it was hard. It feels like it's sealed. It's the end."
After Bankruptcy Court action earlier in the day, David Banmiller, Aloha's president and chief executive, said: "This is a terrible day for this company. A lot of people are hurting and justifiably so. This is adversely affecting human beings, their lives, their futures and their families."
In a brief hearing, federal Bankruptcy Judge Lloyd King ended any suspense about an 11th-hour rescue when he said that shutting down passenger operations was a business decision beyond his purview.
Yesterday was the end of Aloha jobs for 1,900 of the company's 3,500 employees.
Earlier at a news conference, Gov. Linda Lingle fruitlessly marshaled her arguments for legal action to block the shutdown. Legislators also tried to help the shuttered airline, but state Rep. Kirk Caldwell, Democratic majority leader, admitted late yesterday there were no moves left.
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CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Employees tearfully greeted each other as they headed into the interisland terminal to greet Aloha Airlines' last flight, No. 261, from Kahului. From left are Helen Huang, JoAnn Fukao, Vaune Kino, Kekai Lum and Sheree-Lynn Sakai.
Bedlam reigned yesterday at the interisland terminal at Honolulu Airport as Aloha Airlines ticket holders scrambled to get seats, the final flights arrived and longtime employees commiserated about their uncertain future.
Last night was the end of an era.
The last Aloha flight arrived in Honolulu about 10:40 p.m. from Kahului.
About 1,000 people, mostly Aloha employees, jammed the interisland terminal last night. They greeted each other with hugs, smiles and tears and took photos.
Screams echoed throughout the terminal when the last flight arrived. They cheered passengers as they deplaned.
Tamie Stanley, 34, a reservationist with Aloha, said: "It was an memorable flight. Everybody was excited and happy. The flight attendants were great. They were awesome. We're going to miss this."
Stanley said that at work the shutdown didn't seem real. "Knowing I can't go back tomorrow is hard. It's like I lost my friends, my family."
Passenger Rei Takayama of Honolulu came with two friends and used up her Aloha miles. "I don't think I felt any animosity, more sadness and a lot pride," she said. "There was a real warm feeling on the flight."
Meanwhile, mainland Aloha passengers were stranded. Thom Nulty, Aloha Airlines' chief marketing officer, did not have an estimate on how many passengers Aloha stranded, but said 700 mainland residents were trying to get home yesterday.
Nulty said there were about 400,000 outstanding Aloha tickets, mostly for interisland flights, over the next year. Aloha had been flying 10,000 to 11,000 passengers daily, of which 1,800 were on trans-Pacific flights.
Ticket holder Jim Keasling of Laguna Niguel, Calif., was admittedly upset yesterday as he checked out flights.
"There are conferences and seminars I'm supposed to be attending. This has put a real kink in it," he said.
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Fran Mihara, a clerk for Aloha Airlines for 17 years, could not hold back her tears yesterday as she said goodbye to ticket agent Robert Lee at Honolulu Airport.
Keasling and his wife initially were thinking about leaving for home yesterday but decided to spend an extra day in Hawaii, a decision he regrets. He was scheduled to fly back to California today, but now suspects he will not get out until Thursday.
The Aloha counter was mostly empty as frequent travelers said goodbye to their favorite employees. Travelers crowded nearby airlines, including Hawaiian Airlines, to frantically book another flight because Aloha canceled all its flights after yesterday.
Passengers aboard one of the last Aloha flights from the West Coast applauded as the plane landed at 11:21 a.m.
Baggage handlers on the ground snapped photos of the plane. Somber Aloha employees flew as passengers going home.
The pilot told the passengers, "Thank you for riding with Aloha Airlines," perhaps for the last time.
It was a special trip for 5-year-old Delilah Whitaker, who flew from California to Hawaii to swim with dolphins. Delilah has a brain tumor and made her first trip to Hawaii as a part of the Make a Wish Foundation.
When her family stepped onto an Oakland, Calif.-to-Honolulu flight yesterday, they learned it was an even more memorable trip for the crew and pilots -- their last flight with Aloha Airlines.
"It's sad to get on the plane and know this was their last flight," said Delilah's mother, Maureen Sullivan. "They were all so wonderful even though it's their last day on the job."
"We love Aloha," said Roberta Gleeson, of Yountville, Calif., who was on the Oakland flight. "I'm sad to see them go. They were really the most affordable way to get here."
Aloha customer service agent Randall Fukino said a final and tearful aloha yesterday to the many friends who happened to be his co-workers. He hugged a mechanic who addressed him as "mayor of Maui" because of his years of working on the Valley Isle.
"I love working with the people, the guests and fellow workers -- one big family," he said, adding, "I love doing this. It's sad this has to come to an end."