Travelers at Honolulu’s airport raise concerns over global coronavirus outbreak

Updated: Feb. 27, 2020 at 11:00 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - As the coronavirus outbreak continues to spread outside of China, travelers are becoming increasingly concerned about the highly transmissible virus.

Travelers at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport say they’re worried about being among crowds of people ― and in cramped airplanes.

Jyren Sahagon, who was traveling to Los Angeles on Thursday, said he feels Hawaii is at higher risk because of its tourism-based economy.

“It’s always risky to go out there and there’s tourists around everywhere,” Sahagon said.

“We live in Hawaii and a lot of tourism, so now we gotta be careful."

Ozzie Naweli was taking his family to Disneyland in Los Angeles followed by Mexico. He said he knew the risks of coronavirus, but his family’s happiness was also important to him.

“We already had this planned for a while and we spent a lot of money to get my family out there, so we got precautions, masks, hand sanitizers, all the things,” Naweli said. “We just want to have a good time.”

Meanwhile, some airlines are cancelling flights to and from areas where coronavirus has spread.

Hawaiian Airlines announced on Wednesday it would temporarily suspend its service between Honolulu and Seoul. Service to Incheon International Airport, with five flights a week, will be suspended March 2.

Hawaiian Airlines hopes to resume service April 30.

“We believe a temporary service suspension is prudent given the escalation of COVID-19 in South Korea and the impact the illness has had on demand for leisure travel from that country,” said Peter Ingram, president and CEO at Hawaiian Airlines.

“We will continue to closely monitor the situation and extend our support for public health efforts to contain the virus. We apologize for this inconvenience and are working to support impacted guests.”

The decision comes as the number of coronavirus case in South Korea continues to grow. The country has reported about 1,000 confirmed cases of the new virus.

Globally, at least 80,000 have been sickened — the vast majority in China.

Hawaiian Airlines said its final flight to Seoul before the suspension is slated for Sunday at 1:10 p.m. The final flight from Incheon International will depart from South Korea on Monday at 8 p.m.

The airline said it has issued a travel waiver for guests holding tickets to and from South Korea airports.

Previously, American airlines suspended all flights to and from China amid U.S. entry restrictions.

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is calling for a suspension of flights to Hawaii from South Korea and Japan until more can be done to prevent the spread of the illness.

“It is irresponsible for our leaders to endanger the health and well-being of Hawaii’s people by continuing to allow travel from Japan and South Korea," Gabbard said, in a statement Wednesday.

“I know there will be economic hardship, but it will pale in comparison to the cost in lives and economic damage to Hawaii and our country if we don’t suspend travel from these countries.”

This story will be updated.

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