Honolulu, Hawaii (The Adobo Chronicles) – It is rare that commercial airlines offer free tickets with no strings attached. But that is exactly what Hawaiian Airlines is offering – complimentary tickets to as many as 500 passengers. What’s the catch? The tickets are one-way — out of Hawaii.
The offer is part of a new initiative between the Honolulu government and private businesses in Waikiki’s tourism industry.
For several years now, Waikiki has seen a sharp increase in homeless people lining Kalakaua Avenue directly across from Waikiki Beach. Honolulu’s City Hall and Waikiki merchants have agreed that the sight of homeless people — many of whom are from states in the U.S. Mainland — is not good for tourism which is the top revenue-earning industry of Hawaii.
Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association (HLTA) is giving the Institute for Human Services (IHS) $100,000 this year in addition to the same amount next year. But that’s just to kick start the program. The funds will help pay for the tickets on Hawaiian Airlines.
“When the number one complaint from our visitors on why they will not be coming back to Hawaii is the homeless, you have an issue,” said George Szigeti, President and CEO of HLTA. “So when IHS came to us with a plan of action tailored to address the homeless situation in our Waikiki community, we were pleased and we immediately pledged our support,” Szigeti said.
It is estimated that currently, about 500 individuals call the streets of Waikiki home. The city would need an additional $400,000 to complete the process of sending the homeless back to their home states. It hopes to raise that amount quickly from businesses in Waikiki.
To qualify for the complimentary tickets, homeless people must appear at City Hall for a mugshot and fingerprinting and sign a pledge never to return again to the Aloha State. If they prefer to fly first class, they have to personally shoulder the price difference.