HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -The State Department of Transportation sheltered some stranded passengers in an airport conference room Thursday night, who managed to get flights home to Australia today.
"Most of the hotels were booked up this weekend and we thought we'd just camp out here. But then they put up this room for us, which was really good," said stranded Air Australia passenger Declan Magill of Brisbane.
A DOT spokesman said about 21 passengers were provided snacks and water, pillows and sheets. Even familiar water toys - floating colorful rafts - were offered to passengers to be used as mattresses to shield them for the hard floor.
"It was like a mad house yesterday trying to find accomodation and flights and stuff and sleeping in the airport tonight, but at least we're out on Hawaiian Airlines this morning, so our journey home will finally begin," said 22 year old traveler Aaron Knook of Brisbane.
Back in Honolulu Airport's Lobby 4 Friday morning...dozens of other stranded passengers were not so lucky.
James Quinn of Brisbane, found space on Qantas flight, but not until next week.
"The killer is accomodation," he said. "I spent $460 in accomodation last night. I've got a room for tonight, for tonight only. But first plane out is Monday, so I need another two nights accomodation."
The Australian Consulate in Hawaii is trying to help its citizens, but one woman complained it did come soon enough.
Majella Baker of Brisbane said no one was there to help her shortly after Air Australia cancelled her flight as she and other passengers waited at the gate to depart. Air Australia had been operating four daily flights a week (Wednesday - Saturday) from Honolulu to Brisbane and Melbourne.
"The staff (Air Australia) here knew that that plane was not going to leave," said Baker. "Where was the consulate for the travelers yesterday."
While some of fortunate Air Australia passengers did manage to rebook their flights to leave Hawaii, some other
Aussies headed back home on the Qantas flight Friday morning, had no clue Air Australia had abruptly shutdown.
"No, No idea," said Australian Diane Shepherd with her family of five who were all flying home on Qantas today. "We're lucky we were just about to book with Air Australia/Strategic Airline. For some reason, I must have just had a gut feeling and yeah, so I booked with Qantas. Thank God, so we can get home.
"We're gutted. Absolutely gutted," said Baker. "I guess you don't plan for something like this."
Some stranded passengers complained that they'd learn of traveler insurance loopholes that can keeps passenggers from making claims against Air Australia.
"You travel oversees. You book through an agent. The agent says the airline has good reviews and that they recommend the airline," said Baker. "They put the insurance policy in front of you. You have a conversation with them about that insurance and you believe that you are being informed and seeking information from the experts and you're paying them for a service, and then you find yourself in a situation like this in a foreign country where you don't know where to go or what to do."
Baker added that one couple said their travel agent told them an amendment was made to their travel insurance policy back in November 2010, after an Australian news article came out regarding the troubled finances of then, Strategic Air.
Baker says travel agents aren't doing enough to help them. She said agents are telling them they have to fend for themselves at the ticket counters to find the best way home.
Twenty year-old Magill is hoping he fellow traveler, Caitlan Murnieks, might recover some of their costs, but are just glad to be going home, even though the couple will still have to find accomodations when they arrive in Sydney and then find yet another flight to get back to Brisbane.
As far as their next trip is concerned, Magill says they'll be more cautious.
"Well, we thought the deal was too good to be true, because it was so cheap," he said. "So, I guess next time we'll go with something a bit more expensive," Magill laughed.
Another Air Australia flight had been set to depart tomorrow, leaving those passengers travel plans up in the air as well. Possibly early next week, we could see some of the Air Australia arrivals from Thursday frustrated as they start looking to head home as well.
For now, the Air Australia plane itself, which still bears the former Strategic Air logo, is on a "hard stand" at an airport parking lot, according to a DOT spokesman. The company is being charged a fee by the State in order to keep it there.
Other helpful contacts:
Australian Consulate General in Hawaii: 529-8100