Maui Fire: Major Airlines Send Planes For Mass Evacuation Efforts


Major U.S. airlines are sending additional planes to the island of Maui in Hawaii to help with evacuations as the island struggles to control wildfires that engulfed the small tourist town of Lahaina on Wednesday, as tourists and residents seek a quick exit from the island’s small airport and authorities call for a suspension of “all non-essential travel” to Maui.

Key Facts

Maui County officials said they would resume evacuation efforts at 8:30 a.m. Thursday, bussing people from Kaanapali—located north of the historic town of Lahaina—to Kahului Airport.

United told Forbes it had canceled all inbound flights to Maui’s Kahului Airport on Thursday, while empty planes sent to the airport can be used as passenger flights to Hawaii’s mainland.

American Airlines—which noted it expected to continue all inbound and outbound flights–-said it would add an additional flight to Maui while also providing aircraft for evacuations out of the airport.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority said all non-essential travel to Maui is “strongly discouraged at this time,” while hundreds gathered at the airport overnight trying to depart the island.

Both American and United previously issued travel warnings for those flying to and from Maui, while allowing customers to cancel or rebook flights without additional fees.


Evacuation and search-and-rescue efforts have been hampered by strong winds, low visibility and cell phone service being unavailable, officials said. Lt. Gov. Sylvia Luke told CNN the 911 system was down on Wednesday as cell service was interrupted for areas affected by the wildfires. Capt. Ana Kirksey, who commands the U.S. Coast Guard’s Honolulu sector, said a “mass rescue operation” including water approaches was hampered because of “extremely low visibility” caused by wildfire smoke. The Federal Aviation Administration restricted the airspace over Lahaina on Thursday in an effort to “provide a safe environment for rescue.”

Big Number

Nearly 11,000. That’s how many people are without power in Maui as of Thursday morning, according to

Key Background

President Joe Biden declared a “major disaster exists” in Hawaii on Thursday while ordering federal aid to support local recovery efforts for areas affected by wildfires. Assistance includes grants for temporary housing and home repairs, in addition to other programs to help with recovery. At least 36 people have been killed in the wildfires that have spread across west Maui, according to officials. Lahaina—the former capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom—was almost entirely destroyed, after more than 270 buildings had been damaged or destroyed. Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen Jr. said Wednesday that several homes and businesses had been destroyed, as an estimated 2,100 people have been placed in emergency shelters set up across the island. Experts said the fires spread because of dense flammable shrubs and grasses, in addition to wind gusts from Hurricane Dora and dry conditions on the ground. The blaze—the deadliest in the state’s history—follows other fires in recent years, including a 60-plus square mile blaze that affected Hawaii’s Big Island in 2021.

Further Reading

Hawaii Wildfires: Death Toll Rises To 36 As Historic Town Is ‘Burnt To The Ground’ (Forbes)

What’s Causing Hawaii’s Deadly Wildfires—Experts Point To Flammable Grasses, Drought And Hurricane Winds (Forbes)

Six Dead In Hawaii As Hurricane Winds Spur Wildfires Across Maui (Forbes)

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