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Thursday, June 20, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Alaskan Airlines and Hawaii offer Lahaina wildfire survivors flights, Disney trips

Hawaii officials announced the Maui CARE Flights program Wednesday.

HONOLULU (CN) — More than 3,000 roundtrip flights on Alaska Airlines will aid Maui families affected by the Aug. 8, 2023, wildfires through an initiative called Maui CARE Flights, Governor Josh Green, airline CEO Ben Minicucci and civic leaders revealed.

At a media briefing Wednesday, Minicucci unveiled the Maui CARE Flights program, which will offer around 3,000 people the equivalent of one free monthly flight on the carrier until the end of 2025.

In December 2023, Alaska Airlines announced its intention to acquire Hawaiian Airlines for $1.9 billion — and assume $900 million of Hawaiian's debt. 

”For folks to go to visit family, to have a vacation, whatever they need to experience to give them a mental break from what they’ve been through,” said Minicucci at the conference held at the University of Hawaii Maui College. 

While discussing ways to assist Lahaina wildfire victims, Alaska Airlines' leadership realized "we had the gift of flight" to provide affected families some fun and relief during a difficult time.

"So that's why we're so excited to announce that the first charter flights happen in July for 180 guests who will be flying to Disneyland," Minicucci said.

In a partnership with Marriott International, Alaska Airlines will offer Maui wildfire survivors a chance to visit Disneyland, with accommodations covered. The airline stated it will select families based on the direct impact of the fires, giving priority to those with young children and Kapuna, or elders.

“The partnership is all about doing what’s right and about bringing comfort and happiness and joy to those most impacted,” said Jon Kimball, Marriott International Market vice president.

One year ago, the deadliest wildfire in U.S. history struck the Hawaiian islands. The Aug. 8, 2023, blazes destroyed the historic town of Lahaina, killing 100 people and forcing 10,000 from their homes as the area was reduced to ashes.

Officials highlighted the therapeutic value of travel, providing an escape and a chance to make new memories for families grappling with trauma and grief. Psychologists say that positive activities, quality time with family members, and joyful experiences can aid the healing process after experiencing tragedy.

Logistics are still being finalized, but the program is expected to roll out free flight offerings and Disneyland trip opportunities for verified wildfire victims throughout 2024 and into 2025. With over 3,000 flights available, it allows significant reach in serving Maui's recovering community.

The partnership between the state, airline carrier, and hospitality company demonstrates a unified public-private effort to uplift residents of Lahaina through travel opportunities during their long road to emotional and economic recovery.

"The ability to travel is important to Hawaii residents, travel connects us. It has continuously afforded me the opportunity to travel to Maui to grieve with wildfire survivors and provide them support,” said Governor Josh Green. “The Maui CARE Flights program is about more than travel, it's about healing. By giving our wildfire-impacted families opportunities to joyfully bond through these shared experiences together, we're fostering recovery and resilience. This initiative, made possible by the generosity of Alaska Airlines and our partners, embodies the spirit of aloha and our commitment to supporting the well-being of our community."

Families can apply to Maui CARE Flights here

Categories / Government, Travel

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