Hawaii blackout strands air travelers

Hundreds of travelers were making their way off the island Saturday after Friday's blackout caused airlines to cancel or delay more than a dozen flights at Honolulu International Airport.

The delays frustrated passengers, some of whom waited in the partially lit airport for more than four hours Friday night, trying to sort out their travel status.

"It wasn't joyous. Tempers were getting heated," said Terry Bauman, who was connecting from Lana'i to Denver on United Flight 42, which was canceled Friday night.

After waiting for hours at the airport, Bauman and her family took a taxi to Waikiki where they had to search for a hotel with a vacancy and the ability to register new guests. They found a room and yesterday morning caught a cab back to the airport to take their rescheduled flight.

"It was busy and quite chaotic," said Elliot Bauman, Terry's 17-year-old son.

United Airlines canceled five flights — two to Los Angeles, two to San Francisco and one to Denver Friday night.

Hawaiian Airlines canceled 10 interisland flights out of a total of 170 interisland daily flights Friday. Some Hawaiian Airlines flights were delayed, the longest for 25 minutes, according to airline officials.

Several other airlines delayed flights.

Backup generators at the airport kicked in shortly after the power went out and runway lights and the traffic control tower were up, allowing 10 flights to land and another 10 to take off, according to the state Department of Transportation.

Full power was restored to the airport at 4:30 a.m. local time on Saturday.

Airline employees found creative ways to get around the loss of power. Hawaiian Airlines checked in customers by calling their offices on Neighbor Islands and in Los Angeles where personnel used their computer terminals.

"We didn't want anybody sleeping at the terminals and we achieved that," said Blaine Miyasato, vice president of customer service for Hawaiian Airlines. "It was a little slow, a little tedious, a little old-fashioned but we got it done."

At 7 a.m. local time on Saturday, long lines snaked out of the United Airlines area of the terminal as travelers waited to board the re-scheduled flights. A United employee said all canceled flights were rescheduled and that the airline was working with travelers to compensate them for lost time.

Unlike the blackout after Hawaii's October earthquake of 2006, the process of manually screening, boarding and deplaning passengers moved smoothly despite the darkness.

"We had already gone through a scenario like this once before, and we learned a lot. Everyone knew what was going on and what was available and we were able to start sending flights out," said Brennon Morioka, director of the state Department of Transportation. "Everything moved as smoothly as it could have. The process we had in place worked effectively."

During the Oct. 15, 2006, earthquake, the state's backup power system covered only essential operating systems like runway lights, emergency exit signs in the terminal, the emergency operations center and traffic control systems.

Auxiliary generators were operating Friday and provided some electricity to security screening checkpoints, air conditioning, baggage handling and bathrooms.

None of those were working during the blackout in October 2006, delaying thousands of passengers.

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