Airlines offer travel waivers as Hurricane Lane bears down on Hawaii
Hawaii’s 15 airports remain open, but officials are reminding travelers to check with their airlines about the status of their flights before heading to the airport. On the Big Island, which received more than 30 inches of rain, officials said there was no reported damage at either of the airports, Hilo and Ellison Onizuka Kona International. On Maui, Kahului Airport temporarily lost power but it was restored Thursday evening, officials said.
As of 10:30 p.m. Thursday, airport officials said runways were open and would remain accessible barring any damage to infrastructure or issues with debris. Many airlines have already announced waivers to travelers to and from the island. Some airlines, including Delta and United, added flights to accommodate demand.
Hurricane Lane had weakened to a Category 3 storm, but not before dumping more than 30 inches of rain on the Big Island, according to the National Weather Service. Both Oahu, the state’s most populated island, and Maui County were under hurricane warnings. Kauai County was under a hurricane watch. The storm was slowing as it approaches the state’s capital, Honolulu, but forecasters caution that could mean more rain will fall.
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While there is much uncertainty about the storm’s track, forecasters said Friday it has become more likely Lane will remain offshore, rather than striking the islands head-on. Even so, residents and tourists were cautioned not to let their guard down.
In an update Friday morning, American Airlines said most flights were operating, but cautioned there may be delays. The airline had 18 flights scheduled for Friday and canceled four that were scheduled for Kahului Airport, which is located on the island of Maui. Officials at Hawaiian Airlines said travelers with reservations between Aug. 21 and Aug. 28 would be allowed a one-time reservation change without having to pay a fee. They also apologized for long wait times on reservations lines.
A spokesman for United Airlines told CNBC it has reduced fares on last-minute tickets. Airlines had come under criticism during last year’s hurricane season after some travelers complained about high airfares during Hurricane Irma, which hit Cuba and Florida.
“We have taken steps to reduce fares beyond what a regular last-minute fare would be,” United spokesman Frank Benenati told CNBC, saying passengers “traveling to, from or through areas” affected by the hurricane can waive their change fees and difference in airfare.
Officials at American Airlines warned the state has placed restrictions on all animals traveling to Hawaii, including service animals. State officials anticipate they will have limited staffing because of the storm, making it difficult to care for the animals in quarantine and process new arrivals. Officials said pets and emotional support animals will not be allowed on flights from midnight Friday through Monday at 8 a.m. local time. Those traveling with service animals are required to contact the quarantine office during check-in at the airport to ensure their animal has been pre-cleared for release upon arrival.