The Maui wildfires in early August took the lives of many island residents, and the damage caused by the fires is estimated at billions in rebuilding costs. The island's tourism sector has also taken a massive hit, as travelers choose to visit other Hawaiian islands — or new destinations altogether — to avoid the wreckage. This means the local economy in Maui may wind up getting worse before it can rebound.
Unfortunately, at least one airline will be curtailing its flight schedule to Maui as a result of the drop-off in tourism. Delta Air Lines has dropped flights from Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport (MSP) and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) to Kahului Airport (OGG) for its winter season. This change comes just three months after Delta introduced the new nonstop flight from Minneapolis to Maui.
The news comes on the heels of Maui asking travelers to return in order to help the island combat further economic devastation. For example, West Maui, where most of the wildfire damage occurred, plans to reopen to travelers on Oct. 8, per a new wildfire emergency proclamation signed on Sept. 9, 2023 by Hawaii Gov. Josh Green.
Flyers can find alternate routes to Maui
These changes don't mean that Delta flyers, or travelers of any kind, are barred from going to Maui. They can still book flights to Maui from Atlanta, Minneapolis and other cities with Delta or another carrier. However, Delta in particular will offer layovers in place of direct flights for some routes.
For example, Delta now shows layovers in Honolulu (HNL), Los Angeles (LAX) or Seattle (SEA) for its Atlanta to Maui itinerary. The same layover spots are also listed for flights from Minneapolis to Maui.
Delta offering cheap nonstop Maui flights from other locations
If you do live near an airport where Delta flies direct to Maui, and especially LAX, now may be a great time to get back to the island and contribute to its struggling economy. Despite dropping direct flights to Maui from Atlanta and Minneapolis, Delta Air Lines is offering incredibly cheap flight deals for other nonstop itineraries.
For example, a quick search of the Delta website shows one-way flights to Maui from Los Angeles almost daily from $99 in Basic Economy and $139 in Main Cabin economy.
Flights from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) to Maui on Delta weren't quite as cheap. However, those prices aren’t bad either considering the high cost of flying to Hawaii before this crisis hit. For example, we found one-way fares from Seattle to Maui starting at $239 in Basic Economy and $279 in the Main Cabin.
Of course, cheap cash flights and low demand also make for cheap award fares. And for Delta Air Lines, flight awards booked by consumers with a Delta credit card cost 15% less due to the brand's TakeOff 15 promotion. This means a one-way flight to Maui from Los Angeles could cost as little as 11,000 Delta SkyMiles plus $6, or 9,300 miles plus $6 for consumers who have a Delta credit card.
Delta asks customers to donate to Maui
While Delta has cut flights to Maui just when the island needs tourists to visit more than ever, flying empty or nearly-empty planes is a recipe for financial disaster. This is likely why the airline has chosen to fly fewer itineraries direct from the U.S. and instead consolidate passengers on those vessels instead. This will be inconvenient for those who used to be able to fly direct to Maui on Delta from select cities. However, flyers who live outside of Atlanta and Minneapolis won't even notice the difference.
Delta states on its website that it’s already donated $250,000 to the American Red Cross for Maui disaster relief and "immediately delivered supplies to Hawaii to support those affected by the wildfires in Maui."
The company is also asking customers and employees to make monetary donations to organizations supporting the island instead of sending supplies.