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Maui mayor’s appeal to airlines: At least for now, please bring us fewer visitors

Published: Jun. 28, 2021 at 5:50 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 29, 2021 at 4:46 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - To combat overtourism and congestion at the airports, Maui Mayor Michael Victorino is asking airline officials to reduce passenger capacity to the island.

Last week, Maui County officials said Victorino met with airline executives “to determine their willingness to voluntarily reduce airlift into Kahului Airport.”

“The people of Maui County have lacked sufficient time to prepare for the sudden, large influx of tourism, even as health restrictions remain in place,” said Brian Perry, a spokesman for the mayor.

“Many of our hospitality-related businesses are still struggling to fully staff their operations to provide a high quality of customer service.”

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He added that Maui welcomes visitors “but we ask them to temper their enthusiasm for our island with respect, courtesy and aloha.”

Maui County Councilmember Kelly King said she supports the mayor’s approach.

“There are so many people, so many cars on the road that people are parking along the road to Hana Highway and are blocking what could be what might be an emergency access,” said King.

“Just going to the beach parks is a huge issue for locals. It’s really affecting the quality of life for our residents.”

Airline industry expert Peter Forman said the mayor doesn’t have the authority to order the airlines to reduce their passenger capacity.

He also thinks reducing capacity is a bad idea that won’t work.

“This is a really dicey kind of thing to do ― to mess with the market. Prices go up when you artificially constrain supply,” Forman said.

Forman said the reduced lift and higher mainland to Maui fares will force some tourist to book their flights through Honolulu Airport, increasing inter-island fares to Maui.

“Not only long distance flying but short distance flying to and from Honolulu could increase by hundreds of dollars ... making it more expensive for everybody including Maui residents,” he said.

Victorino also met with the state airport officials to find ways to ease the congestion at Kahului airport.

But Transportation Department officials said they have the capacity to handle scheduled airport traffic.

A spokesman said Victorino will talk more about his plan to reduce passenger traffic at a news conference on Tuesday.

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