Maui fire :Destructive wildfires on Maui and the Big Island have razed homes and businesses, resulting in a tragic loss of life, with at least six fatalities reported. Additionally, these fires are disrupting the tourism industry, leaving visitors uncertain about their travel plans.
Intense winds have fueled large wildfires on Maui and Hawaii islands, transforming picturesque beach destinations into scenes of destruction. Rapidly advancing flames have consumed acres of land, leading to the loss of homes and businesses. Evacuations, road closures, and disruptions in power and communication services have ensued. Tragically, at least six lives have been lost in the wildfires. The most severe impact is seen along Maui’s western coast, particularly in the historic town center of Lahaina, which has suffered significant damage. With a state of emergency declared across all counties, Hawaiian authorities are urging travelers to swiftly depart from West Maui and advising against travel to the affected zones. Here’s essential information for travelers.
Where are the fires?
Hawaii News Now reports that Maui is currently grappling with three separate wildfires, with one affecting Lahaina, a popular tourist hub, and another impacting the upcountry area of the island. Similarly, the Big Island is contending with three fires, located in North Kohala and South Kohala, encompassing the Mauna Kea beach vicinity, as confirmed by Big Island Now.
Can you fly to the Big Island and Maui?
Hawaiian authorities are advising against nonessential air travel, and Acting Gov. Sylvia Luke has issued emergency proclamations permitting various measures, including the activation of the National Guard.
Travelers are advised to check their flight status online or via the airline’s app before heading to the airport.
As of early Wednesday morning local time, Kahului Airport on Maui remains operational, hosting approximately 1,800 travelers under the shelter of the Hawaii Department of Transportation. While most Wednesday flights are proceeding as planned, FlightAware, an aviation tracking website, reports some incoming cancellations and delays for specific carriers. Both Hilo International Airport and Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport on the Big Island are also open.
Josh Freed, a spokesperson for United Airlines, stated that all reservations for inbound flights to Kahului Airport have been canceled. This move allows United’s aircraft to travel to Maui empty and subsequently return as passenger flights to the mainland.
In an email, Freed expressed, “We are closely monitoring the situation and adjusting our schedule to serve our customers in challenging circumstances.” United is offering refunds to passengers seeking to cancel their flights.
Curtis Blessing, a spokesperson for American Airlines, mentioned that reservations for inbound flights to Kahului Airport have also been canceled. The airline is facilitating rebooking for passengers without imposing any fees, subject to certain conditions.
Major carriers continue to run their scheduled flights while providing a range of alternatives for affected travelers seeking to adjust their plans.
Passengers flying with Hawaiian Airlines have the option to modify their flight itineraries or receive refunds. Marissa Villegas, a spokesperson for the company, mentioned that Hawaiian Airlines conducts over 80 daily flights to and from Maui. Additionally, the airline is introducing special fares of $19 from Maui for those with urgent travel requirements.
Southwest Airlines maintains a presence with at least 90 daily flights in Hawaii, including 60 within the state. Travelers who have made bookings with Southwest for travel to or from Maui on Wednesday or Thursday can reschedule without any fees. However, refunds are applicable solely in cases where the airline cancels the flight.
Alaska Airlines passengers can make changes to their flights, with the condition that their travel is completed before August 31st. The airline’s spokesperson noted that the eight daily flights to Maui are operational, albeit with some delays.
What recent developments have there been in island travel?
The Hawaii Department of Transportation is using social media to offer up-to-date details about road conditions, highway closures, and airport statuses. The department has advised against nonessential trips to Maui.
On Wednesday, Hawaiian Airlines is introducing an additional six flights between Honolulu and Kahului.
Travelers moving between islands should stay updated on their flight’s status using their airline’s app or website, as unexpected modifications are possible.
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported multiple road closures for Maui and the Big Island. The Honoapiilani Highway on Maui’s west coast is accessible only for outbound traffic while remaining open.
Can my hotel or short-term rental give me a refund?
Travelers on X, the rebranded Twitter, have reported that prominent hotels near the Maui wildfires are shutting down and undergoing evacuations. Notably, key resorts like the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa at Ka’anapali Beach as well as Marriott’s Maui Ocean Club are presently without electricity.
Regarding the Hyatt Regency, the hotel is presently not admitting new guests and won’t be doing so until August 11th. The company issued a statement assuring that any deposits or prepayments made for stays during this period will be reimbursed.
Efforts to contact other major resorts in the region for comments have proven unsuccessful at this time.
While many major hotel chains have already introduced more flexible reservation cancellation policies due to the pandemic, notable brands like Marriott and Hilton haven’t provided responses about their specific policies concerning the wildfire situation.
Travelers who made lodging arrangements through Airbnb will find that the company has put its “extenuating circumstances policy” into action for certain parts of Maui. This means eligible guests with bookings will receive complete refunds, and both hosts and guests have the freedom to cancel reservations without penalties, as declared by the company on Wednesday.
As per Vrbo’s guidelines, standard cancellation policies remain intact even in the face of wildfires and other natural calamities. Nonetheless, for reservations in Maui and certain areas of the Big Island scheduled from August 9 to 16, Vrbo has exempted hosts from penalties associated with cancellations. This enables hosts to refund their guests without concerns about the impact on their listing’s visibility in future searches.
Vrbo suggests that guests should contact their booking hosts directly to gather more details, and if they have acquired trip protection, they should also get in touch with their travel insurance provider.
Would travel insurance help?
The fine print of travel insurance policies should be carefully reviewed to ascertain if natural disasters like wildfires are covered in case of trip cancellation. Generally, coverage applies if the destination becomes uninhabitable or if evacuation is mandated, with at least 50 percent of the trip remaining.
According to Squaremouth, a comparison site for travel insurance, many plans also cover situations where accommodations are canceled due to wildfire damage before your scheduled arrival. Travelers should note that “cancel for any reason” policies eliminate the need for specifying a cancellation reason, but certain limitations might still apply. Typically, policies offering wildfire coverage need to be purchased before the actual event takes place.
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