Airlines add flights to get travelers off of Maui after deadly wildfires

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AFP

Patrick T. Fallon | AFP | Getty Images

Airlines added flights to get travelers off of Maui after wildfires on the Hawaiian island killed at least 55 people and prompted evacuations.

American Airlines

, Southwest Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Alaska Airlines said they were adding service to help customers leave. Ed Sniffen said at a late-night news conference that the state transportation director has told NBC News that more than 11,000 people had been evacuated from the island since the wildfires started. Much of the seaside town of Lahaina had burned down, after the fires were fanned by winds from Hurricane Dora.Hawaiian Airlines said it had added six additional Maui flights on Thursday and that it’s using larger planes between Honolulu and Maui to move passengers as well as water, food and other essentials. The carrier discouraged travelers without reservations from coming to Kahului Airport in Maui because of crowding.

“While we are currently operating our full schedule and have seats available on flights out of Maui today, we are concentrating our resources on transporting essential personnel and first responders,” the carrier said. The carrier warned that there could be disruptions on other routes as it worked to meet the essential travel needs of Maui. An American Airlines spokesperson said that the carrier will operate all scheduled flights from and to Kahului Airport this Thursday. A spokesperson said that the airline has “added a flight today and upgraded one aircraft to ensure that customers evacuating OGG can do so.” “

The airline swapped out Airbus A321 narrow-body planes, which can seat about 190 passengers, for some of the flights for a Boeing 777-200, one of the largest planes in its fleet, which have 273 seats, according to American’s website.

Southwest Airlines also said it was adding service to Hawaii from the U.S. mainland and intra-island flights.

United Airlines

said it has canceled Thursday’s inbound flights to Kahului Airport, but that it’s flying aircraft in empty to pick up travelers on Maui.

Alaska Airlines said it added a “rescue flight” on Thursday, bringing the carrier’s total departures from Maui to nine.“Our main concern is the safety of our employees and guests,” the airline said in a statement. Alaska Airlines said it added a “rescue flight” on Thursday, bringing the carrier’s total departures from Maui to nine. “

All of the major airlines waived cancellation fees and fare differences for those whose travels were affected by the fires.