18,000 rental cars are sitting idle at Kahului’s airport — a dramatic sign of tourism slump
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Thousands of cars are sitting idle at Kahului Airport — a dramatic sign of just how severe the tourism slump is on Maui in the wake of the Lahaina wildfire disaster.
The cars are clogging the airport’s surrounding fields — just as they did during the pandemic.
“When we look at that, we are kind of like wow,” said Marvin Moniz, Maui airport district manager.
There are now so many cars at the airport, some will be shipped out. “They (car rental companies) indicated to us that they need to reduce the inventory here,” said Moniz.
For Maui residents, the glut of rental cars is also a visual reminder of their economic pain with tourism all but wiped out. Thousands of visitors have opted to cancel or delay their Maui plans.
“There are two separate lots and they are both full of empty cars. It’s just surreal,” said Isa Shipley, chief operating officer at Kula Lodge.
There are seven rental car companies at Kahului Airport and roughly 21,000 rental cars.
Of those, 3,000 are currently rented, leaving 18,000 cars to sit idle.
Moniz says the car rental companies have been working with shipping companies like Matson and Pasha to begin shipping some of the vehicles off island. “Getting barges out here will be a challenge. They have requested for special barges to make this happen,” he said.
It’s unclear how many cars will shipped off island, but Moniz says half of the rental cars at Kahului Airport were shipped out during the pandemic.
Shipley is COO of Kula Lodge and lost family in the Lahaina wildfire.
She’s also trying to cope with the economic fallout.
“We’ve been closed since Aug. 8, contaminated water, we’ve laid off 72 people and looking at my vendors, all laying off,” said Shipley.
Kula Lodge is housing some displaced residents and hoping visitors will come back soon.
“We are just watching all of this kind of in disbelief,” she said.
“How is this happening and do we see a light at the end of the tunnel?”
Shipley says Kula Lodge welcomes displaced residents and there are some pending reservations in mid-September. She says they’ve given the option to cancel, but those people still want to come.
While some rental cars may be shipped out, some could end up being owned by fire survivors.
Gov. Green just announced the new “vehicle replacement program” for people who lost their vehicles in the fires.
Rental companies, including Avis, Enterprise, and Hertz, have released a pool of cars now available for purchase.
If your vehicle was damaged or destroyed, call your insurance company or agent to see if you can use your claim proceeds to buy a replacement. After that, reach out directly to the rental companies or dealerships.
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