Since the tragic Aug. 8 wildfires in Lāhainā, Hawaiian Airlines has been steadfast in supporting the West Maui community's recovery needs. The carrier’s Mālama Maui Desk has been a pillar in Hawaiian’s ongoing response, helping manage a consistent stream of calls for kōkua (help).
Hawaiian established the Mālama Maui Desk on Aug. 15 as part of its second phase of support for Maui, alongside significant volunteer commitments and donations for local nonprofits. Since its inception, the program has assisted over 230 individuals and organizations with urgent, high-impact requests for support related to travel, cargo shipping, baggage waivers, volunteers, sponsorships and more.
Hawaiian has fielded requests from across its network in the past two months, and Alisa Onishi, the carrier’s senior director of brand and community, said the demand and impact surpassed expectations.
“A lot of people saw the devastation of the wildfires and immediately sprung to action, doing what they could do to help Maui in its greatest time of need. As the hometown carrier, people naturally looked to us and we knew in those first days that our biggest responsibility was to respond in the most significant and timely fashion,” said Onishi.
“In the immediate aftermath, employees from all over the company were receiving separate requests for help to get supplies and personnel to Maui, and it became clear we had to create a dedicated submission process and set up a team to manage it,” Onishi said.
The over 230 requests granted were evenly split between cargo shipping or baggage waivers and passenger transportation.
Erin S. had a trip to Kahului from Sacramento and requested baggage waivers for luggage filled with donations. She was able to hand-deliver the donations to Nāpili Park’s Nāpili Noho, a community hub for impacted residents and those without internet access after the West Maui wildfires.
In a mahalo email, Erin wrote, "Mahalo nui loa for the waiver of the baggage fees on the large donation suitcase. When we delivered it to the Nāpili Hub this afternoon, in addition to some additional items at Costco once we landed in Kahului, the volunteers were so very grateful. I'm not sure I've ever had a more genuine hug than the one I received when the lead volunteer saw the donation! Mahalo for being a part of today's little aloha!"
Another request was submitted by a Hawaiian Airlines Kahului Airport ramp agent, who responded to a social media post for help for two separate women impacted by the wildfires who needed to relocate, one to Kona and the other to Līhuʻe. Their act of kindness was supported by the Mālama Maui Desk and the women received flight support and baggage waivers.
Hawaiian Air Cargo has shipped nearly 19,000 pounds of donations to Kahului, facilitated by the Mālama Maui Desk team. Items have included meals and poi, personal electronic devices, school supplies and backpacks, handmade quilts, first-aid and hygiene products, wheelchairs and walkers, Halloween costumes, toys, sporting goods, pet crates and food containers.
“Whenever disaster strikes, one of the biggest needs is getting supplies into the impacted area. I’m proud to say Hawaiian Air Cargo played a big role in our company and state’s relief efforts,” said Dana Knight, director of commercial cargo at Hawaiian Air Cargo.
“Our employees personally welcomed donors and cared for their donation shipments until they got into the right hands in Kahului. It’s been an honor to serve our state in this important way, and these months have given us a number of incredible experiences of aloha that many of us will never forget," Knight said.
Requests for West Maui relief assistance will now be accepted through Hawaiian’s Team Kōkua Giving Program. For more information on Hawaiian’s West Maui relief efforts, visit www.HawaiianAirlines.com/MalamaMaui.