Is it safe to travel to Maui? Hawaii wildfires’ impact on flights, airports

Thousands of tourists are stranded at the Kahului Airport on Maui after blazing wildfires forced evacuations throughout the island.

The wildfires, which have spread across several islands because of winds from Hurricane Dora, are engulfing Maui on multiple sides. Lahaina also has been inundated, Newsweek reported. It is believed that the fires were caused by a mix of hot and dry conditions. Thousands of tourists residing on Maui were forced to evacuate the island Wednesday morning, overwhelming the Kahului Airport.

As of Wednesday, more than 2,000 people were stranded at the Kahului Airport. Their flights had either been canceled or they had nowhere to go, Newsweek reported. Kahului Airport also serves as a shelter open to those who are fleeing the fires, and the Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT) said Wednesday that about 1,800 people sheltered in place overnight in the airport, according to a social media post by HDOT.

Newsweek reached out to Kahului Airport officials by email for comment.

Check-in area with travelers and luggage visible at Kahului Airport on Maui, Kahului, Hawaii, August 2022. As of Wednesday afternoon, Kahului Airport remained open, especially to those trying to leave Maui because of the wildfires, according to the Hawaii Department of Transportation.

There are two other airports on Maui, although Kahului Airport is the main airport on the island and provides access to all commercial airline operations. Kahului Airport is the second busiest airport in Hawaii. Honolulu International Airport is the busiest.

“Kahului Airport remains open especially anyone hoping to leave Maui,” the Hawaii Department of Transportation posted on X, formerly Twitter, at 1:19 p.m. Eastern time Wednesday.

Kapalua Airport is on the northwest side of the island in Lahaina, which has been overcome by the fires. Roads in and out of the town have been closed, but HDOT urged those trying to leave Lahaina to use “the back road out of the area” because it remained open.

Newsweek reached out to Kapalua Airport by phone for comment several times but received a busy signal. It is not the first time the airport has been affected by wildfires. In 2019, Newsweek reported that a fast-moving brush fire in West Maui, Hawaii, was blazing in the area near Kapalua Airport. The airport was evacuated and closed at that time.

Hana Airport is on the east side of the island furthest from the fires. A spokesperson from the airport manager’s office told Newsweek that the airport is open but declined to answer any information about the number of flights that had been canceled or delayed.

Mahina Martin, chief of communications and public affairs for the island of Maui, told Newsweek via phone on Wednesday morning that three fires remain active on Maui.

“None of them are contained,” Martin said. “The magnitude of the fires and the fast moving swiftness of the fires have caused evacuations in all three areas throughout yesterday and overnight.”

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