Big Island

Island Air Shutdown, Went Out of Business Abruptly

So my wife pestered me to book my flight back to Honolulu two days prior to my departure for Auckland, New Zealand.  I didn’t really want to, but catered to her request to make her happy, giving me ample time to get situated in Oahu without interruptions from my inter island flight.  Well, what happened?

I awoke early morning in Hawaiian Paradise Park on the floor at 7:30 AM.  The carpet rubbed against my bare skin all night as the ceiling fan cooled me, lying there in nothing but a blanket and boxer briefs.  The sound of coqui frogs and rampant drizzle pittered me to sleep that night, but not until midnight.  My anxiety kept me awake.  I felt alive, ready, and eager to leave the Big Island, not because of anything other than the itch to travel freely to new land.

I hitchhiked over 500 miles in my 3-week span on the Big Island, most of which with Kim Chee and his mother, some with Jan and the rest by myself all the way to Keaau from Kona Airport.  I slept off the road through a flash flood one night by the coast beneath an Albizia tree, under an awning at Puka’ana Church and at a picnic shelter by Kilauea Volcano.  For that night will always be embedded in my once-in-a-lifetime memories, seeing the sky lit up like a crimson flare, lava sputtering out of fissures of the caldera.

My mind wandered as Kim Chee drove me to the Kona Airport, reminiscing on the past few weeks, working at the farm in Honomu where I never got paid and roaming back to Pat’s (Kim Chee’s Mother) house for an endless supply of burritos, good company and landscaping.  He taught me of the different flora, both invasive and native to the island as we plucked vines, snipped roots, dropped trees from the sky, shoveled dirt, and planted fruit.

Bruce Mangostein spread his roots adjacent the Noni tree, with Miracle fruit and Barbados Cherry beside him, growing bushy, vibrant green leaves next to the slopey driveway.  Five Brazilian Dwarf banana trees stood tall, their cuttings driven into fresh, loose dirt.  All nine yards hauled by a truck, which we used to fill the loose fissures and level the land once covered in junk trees and jungle.  It now spread free of green ferns, Albizia and Oheia trees, sensitive plant, and vines turning brown and deathly from the herbicide Kim Chee sprayed upon each newly trimmed stump.

Behind the thriving bananas, that stood four feet tall with luscious lime leaves flowering at the top of their trunks lay a field of spikey white pineapples.  We planted them each a foot apart and in two tiers, separated by two retaining walls of lava rock for drainage.  When we ceased planting we moved dirt about by the 5-gallon bucket, filling the 3-foot deep fissure of rock to plant Terry Mango.  When the dirt spread thin covering a sparse section of land we cut our way through the backyard, chopping strawberry guava trees by the dozen, and working our way to the almighty Banyan, home to a myriad fire ants, birds and invasive roots, twisting, turning, warping and rotting other trees like a bloodsucking leech, a parasite.  I learned more in those weeks about farming from Kim Chee than I ever did wwoofing on the farm in Honomu.

All that flashed by in a glance as I peered out the window at the glinting blue ripples with sparkles of white light crashing yonder by the shoreline.  We cruised.  The car meandered about the bends, drifting through the verdant countryside full of cows masticating in the grass, scattered atop the hills and valleys.  A mirage of mountains stood in the background with fluffy white clouds floating at their base.  At points the green peaks and valleys opened up to sunlight shining their verdance in the blistering light.  I wondered if I would ever wander back here, back to the Big Island, back to Pat’s home, back to the Volcano, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa.  I really didn’t know.

With that last blinding thought and a race to find a bathroom I finally arrived at the Kona Airport, just an hour before my flight.  I waved and spoke a subtle goodbye, my mind preoccupied on my baggage.  When I reached the Kiosk, my eyes scanned the crowd for the correct airline, looking through the bombardment of tourists flustered and riffling through their baggage.  I saw United.  I saw Hawaiian.  But, what I did not see was my airline, Island Air, the company I booked my round trip ticket with on the 23rd of October.

Seamlessly wandering to the kiosk I raised my hand as if calling a taxi.

“Umm…excuse me sir…what happened to the Island Air terminal…I don’t see it…”

“Oh bruddah…you need to go to Hawaiian….See that lady over there…she will take care of you…Island Air went out of bidness a few days ago.”

I looked at him confusedly rolling my eyes in amazement.

“What in the fuck.  Kelly was fuckin’ right…is she psychic…maybe she is a mermaid…I don’t know what to believe.”

I walked over to the line, standing patiently in guest services.  My lithium ion batteries swung side-to-side in a plastic grocery bag from one hand, while my sleeping bag dangled from the other.  A big Hawaiian woman with a low voice, her brown hair held up in a bun with a yellow flower stuck behind her ear, motioned me forward.

“Uhh…yeah…I was supposed to have a flight to Honolulu today with Island Air, but the gentleman over there said they went out of business after 37 years…I find that hard to believe, they’d just shutdown that suddenly, but he said to come over here and talk to you.”

“Yes sir, Hawaiian is honoring any flights from Island Air, you just need proof of itinerary and you must pay for any baggage.  We can put you on a standby flight or you can pay $71 and get a confirmed flight.”

I stood there blankly, emotionless, holding back my anger.

“Guess, I will just wait.  My flight with you guys don’t leave til the 14th to Auckland.  What else can I do?”

I walked over to the wooden bench following the perimeter of a retaining wall made of stone, plopping my ass down, and wondering when I would get out of Kona.  If I would make my flight to Honolulu and Auckland and why Island Air shutdown suddenly to begin with, but my mind kept drifting back to my wife’s cute little voice.

“Honies, you should really book a few days before your flight to Auckland…I have a feelin’…a slight feelin’ that you should…I dunno why, but puhlease…just trust me.”

“Maybe she was a psychic mermaid…I didn’t know.”

All I knew was as soon as I landed on Oahu I was calling my bank to issue a chargeback for my roundtrip flight from Island Air, making my trip over the last 3 weeks to the Big Island $0 to travel.