LIHUE — Island Air ceased operations at day’s end on Friday, but many of its customers were unaware of it.
“It’s just terrible, it’s frustrating,” Ashley Spillmen said Friday at Lihue Airport. “They did not inform us at all that they were going out of business, and they just expect us to find a flight home.”
Josh and Ashley Spillmen from Oahu arrived on Kauai on Friday and were supposed to leave Sunday, after they had already purchased round-trip tickets two months ago.
“So now we’re just stuck in a stasis to where they said Hawaiian Air will validate our ticket from Island Air and fly us back,” Josh said. “But now they’re saying that we have to get a refund, and they’re not going to do it. We’ve always enjoyed Island Air until today.”
The pair travels throughout the islands regularly, and this was their third visit to Kauai using Island Air.
“They just keep passing the buck, saying go talk to this guy, go talk to this girl. That’s the fourth girl who’s told us the wrong information today,” Josh said. “I always like using small businesses, like Island Air, but it’s really unfortunate now that there’s no help.”
Many were confused and upset after being told Island Air would be shutting down after 37 years of operating in Hawaii. Even some of Island Air’s employees on Friday said they hadn’t been told and were upset.
Vacationers from Sacramento, California, Joan Fuquay and Caroline Camp, learned about the closure on Friday while checking in on their way to Maui.
“It was a surprise,” Fuquay said. “We didn’t even find out about it until this morning, because we hadn’t done our pre-check or anything. So we tried calling and calling and calling, and of course we didn’t get anybody. We couldn’t reach anybody on the phone, and the website is down.”
Penny Lloyd, a horse veterinarian flying home to Oahu, said she is sorry to see Island Air go under.
“I hope somebody else steps up,” she said. “Now I think we just have Hawaiian (Airlines) to chose from here. I hope they change their mind.”
The closure puts 400 employees out of work. Attempts to reach the airline about the number of Kauai residents affected were futile. Employees at the Lihue Airport counter were not willing to comment.
One passenger traveling for work from Oahu, who wished not to be named, said he has flown with Island Air many times. His son, an employee of the airline stationed in Honolulu, is also losing his job.
“Hopefully he’ll start working with another airline again, so we can get the benefits,” he said.
Hawaiian Porter Service employee, Leon Maier, has seen many changes at Lihue Airport in the last few years.
“When a smaller airline closes, Hawaiian Airlines raises their prices, because they can. It becomes a monopoly,” Maier said. “It’s a sad situation that will put a lot of people out of work.”
Maier said he thought Island Air was doing better, financially, and was surprised it was closing.
“They had more people, and their flights were more on time,” he said.
Travis Cooke, a home designer vacationing from New Jersey, was connecting in Honolulu Friday with Island Air and was worried his delayed flight would make his family miss its connection to Japan on Air Asia.
“They had to delay our flight for over an hour,” he said.
Cooke was traveling with his wife and young daughter, but was unaware of the airline closure on their first trip to Kauai.
“We’re trying to get Island Air to call them and tell them to keep the gate open until we get there, but they say there’s nothing they can do.”
Ryan Lee and Caroline McLaughlin were visiting for a friend’s wedding and headed home to Arizona after connecting in Honolulu.
“They changed our flight to another time, but they told us like three weeks ago,” Lee said. “We’re just glad that we decided not to fly out tomorrow.”
For inquiries on refunds, the airline’s website requests ticket holders to contact their credit card company.
“A friend of mine told me we could take a canoe,” Fuquay added. “But it would take a bit longer.”