FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaiian Airlines has increased seats to accommodate passengers stranded by Aloha Airlines' shutdown. Valerie and Alfred Medford, left, were among those waiting at Honolulu Airport yesterday for a flight to Hilo.
Passengers left in the lurch make do with other airlines
"I just want to get home," says a traveler hit by the shutdown
Things calmed down at Honolulu Airport yesterday as local airlines and the local community offered some aloha to passengers stranded by the now-defunct Aloha Airlines.
The airlines tried to accommodate passengers with flights, and some travelers like 21 girls of Halau Hula Olana got on Hawaiian Airlines to get to the Merrie Monarch Festival in Hilo, where they are to perform. They originally bought tickets on Aloha.
"I'm relieved we got a flight to go all together as a halau at the same time," said Carolyn Pascua, 15.
Shelsea Apana, daughter of kumu hula Olana Ai, who had originally purchased the tickets on Aloha Airlines, said, "How sad for the girls who had to fundraise, take off from work" if they hadn't made it, she said.
"Not a lot of halau were in our situation," she said, because Hawaiian is a sponsor of the hula competition. Although their halau had flown Aloha for the past 30 years, she discovered not a lot of others did.
Ai said of Aloha's demise, "We were in denial."
"Aloha has been a part of all of our lives," Ai said. "Everyone is feeling a little pain about the departure. Our prayers and our love goes out to all the employees and their families."
Keenan Quinories, 24, and his wife were finally heading home to Hilo from Missouri after his discharge from the Air Force. They were surprised when they checked in at 5 p.m. yesterday at the Aloha counter.
"You're flying standby," he was told, noticing the Hawaiian Airlines signs. "I wasn't about to be stranded after leaving Missouri 9 a.m. Central Time.
"I'm just tired. I just want to get home."
But still some mainland travelers, like Deana Jacoby, weren't as lucky. Jacoby and her husband were on standby for a flight to Las Vegas. Even though Redding, Calif., is their destination, they were desperate to get to the West Coast in any way possible.
Jacoby's luggage was put on the Las Vegas flight, but not her. The flight was full, and now her luggage is sitting in Sin City. She flies to Sacramento, Calif., today on United Airlines while her husband flies to Vegas to pick up their belongings.
"We are wearing our day wear, our night wear, club wear, perhaps the beach wear," said Jacoby, adding they had yet to make accommodations for the night.
Jacoby is a high school teacher and by the time she returns to California today, she will have missed three days of instruction. But despite the inconvenience, she said she felt for the airline employees.
"We haven't taken our ire out on anybody," she said. "These people are working so hard and their hands are tied. It's so difficult for them."
Alfred Medford, 57, and his wife were on standby at 2:30 p.m., then 5 p.m., to fly home to Hilo from a trip to Las Vegas, with no luck.
"When they canceled the 9 p.m. flight, we went and bought tickets," Medford said after waiting five hours. "They make it sound like no big deal, but we didn't get on one of those planes."
For those who were on standby through the night, the Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii purchased 120 air mattresses yesterday. Honolulu Airport turned a conference room into a hospitality suite with the mattresses.
VASH President Jessica Lani Rich said the nonprofit group has not received calls from stranded passengers, but plenty from concerned local residents. Rich said Aloha's shutdown was a new experience for the nonprofit group.
"When an airline closes down like this, it's like your family," she said. "So we all pull together to help each other."
Blaine Miyasato, vice president of customer relations for Hawaiian Air, said former Aloha Air employees also gave words of encouragement to Hawaiian Air employees.
"People here at Hawaiian are just devastated," he said. "We've worked so closely with Aloha for so many years. They were very honorable competitors."