No aloha spirit for Denver couple - until Hawaii's Lt. Gov calls

Published: Mar. 9, 2012 at 10:13 PM HST|Updated: Mar. 12, 2012 at 9:33 PM HST
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Mike and Georgia Young
Mike and Georgia Young
Lieutenant Governor Brian Schatz
Lieutenant Governor Brian Schatz

KAUAI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii's Lieutenant Governor is trying to repair a public relations mess for the tourism industry.

An elderly Colorado couple got stranded at Lihue airport this week - but it's what happened in the moments after their flight got canceled that had officials scrambling to apologize.

Mike and Georgia Young's 50th wedding anniversary vacation was NOT supposed to end huddled, soaking wet at a Red Cross shelter. "The rain actually looked like waves of snow. It was coming down so hard," recalls Mike Young.

Around midnight Monday, their Hawaiian Airlines flight to Denver got canceled. Hotels were sold-out. Taxis had stopped. They were among 20 passengers planning to wait it out overnight at Lihue airport - until both airline and security employees told them they couldn't stay.

"We kept asking him, "Well, where are we supposed to go?'" explains Mike Young, "and he kept saying, 'All I know is: security is saying you're going to have to leave'."

To compound problems, the husband's medication was still in his checked luggage. They say a Securities guard told them to leave immediately - or else. "So that's when he said, 'We'll call the police. We will call the police and have you forcibly removed'," say both the husband and wife as they finished each other's sentence.

A passerby drove them to the Red Cross shelter, but since it was so late, all the cots were already taken. Their golden anniversary celebration ended on a slab of concrete. By the time the couple, both in their 70's, made it home to Littleton, Colorado, mid-week, the mainland media got wind of the lack of Hawaiian hospitality. That's when Lieutenant Governor Brian Schatz picked up the phone and dialed their home near Denver.

"I just wanted to reach out and on behalf of the people of the state of Hawaii, just say sorry," says the LG. "We had a great chat. They're really neat people. They're kind. They were courteous. They were forgiving, and they still love Hawaii."

The state Department of Transportation's policy provides an airport conference room, bathrooms, and water to stranded passengers, but the DOT says the security guard never contacted his Securitas superiors or the DOT about the situation. Hawaiian Airlines says it did everything it could to help. Securitas told Hawaii News Now that a DOT representative was with its guard when he closed the doors to the airport and that the guard followed all policies and procedures. The guard has reportedly been reassigned while officials from the companies and the state review their policies.

Copyright 2012 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.