Santa and his helpers greet 100 special kids on flight to 'North Pole'

(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It's not everyday you can check in at the airport for a flight heading to the North Pole.

But that's exactly what happened Tuesday, when 100 lucky kids got to take off on a United Airlines "Fantasy Flight" to meet Santa Claus along with his many helpers.

"We are flying on a trip to go to the North Pole to see Santa," said passenger Ben Hirokawa.

"It's my first time on an airplane and I feel excited!" added passenger Josiah Keama-White.

For many of the kids on board the flight, it's been a bumpy ride.

Some are facing illness and others have special needs. They were picked for the program from a variety of nonprofits, including Ronald McDonald House, HUGS, Inpeace Keiki Steps and Honolulu Community Action Program.

Colleen Kahaku, United Airlines flight attendant, said she was honored to participate in the event.

"This is our community and we are all from here and get to serve others here on the islands," she said.

Pilot Steve Claypool added that the flight can also be pretty emotional for those who help out.

"This is the part that is very heartwarming for me," he said as he punched in the coordinates for the North Pole. "I've been doing this for years for the kids but the one that gets to me are the parents"

After the hour-long flight, the crew, many elves and Santa's helpers, along with the keiki and parents made it to Santa's special winter wonderland.

"Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas!" exclaimed Santa, as the kids got off the plane.

At Santa's workshop, kids got to share their Christmas wishes, grab some toys, eat and play games.

Jake Shimabukuro, ukulele extraordinaire, was there to add to the festive atmosphere.

'In the spirit of giving, this is important to the kids and it's an honor to be here," he said.

For decades, Fantasy Flights have been an annual holiday tradition in several of United's mainland markets.

It hasn't been done in Hawaii for years, but many who participated in the event hope it becomes an annual tradition.

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