State meeting with Island Air employees about impending shutdown
The state labor department's rapid response team is meeting with the employees of Island Air to talk about the sudden shutdown.
HONOLULU - Everywhere you looked, there were hugs and tears.
Island Air employees are losing their jobs and losing what some consider their second family.
Many were so upset they didn't come to work, but others came in to say goodbye.
Some recalled feeling blindsided by Thursday's email.
"This one, this email just hit me, what are we going to do now? So, I came in and said, are we really shutting down? And they said yeah, we are shutting down. It was really overwhelming," Katelyn Sarme, an agent said.
"I think I speak for myself and all the others, that we are all pretty hurt that our company went down like this," Kaipo Padwell, another airline worker said.
"They are really sad right now. Everybody is crying in there. I don't want to be in and I don't want to cry," Tua Unutoa, the ramp lead said.
More than 400 employees crammed into a conference room to find out what to do next.
The state's rapid response team from the Labor Department scheduled three meetings through out the day and offered information about unemployment benefits and job training programs.
"Anything we can do to help get their lives on track, it's really just to be there for them, to make them feel someone cares for them. There is a safety net and they don't have to go through this alone," Linda Chu-Takayama, director, State Department of Labor and Industrial Relations said.
Island Air officials have also been in contact with businesses around the state that expressed interest in assisting the employees. The company is also working with other employers to schedule a job fair for the employees in the near future.
The soon to be unemployed include pilots and flight attendants, it also covers customer service, ramp agents, mechanics, clerks, dispatchers and airplane cleaners.
They all had questions about their union benefits and their pay.
"We didn't get any word. But I am going to keep the faith. I know everything will be alright, that's just how I just have to think," Debbie Maluina, customer service said.
Island Air hopes to compensate its employees in full for their work through Nov. 10, 2017. But the final decision will be determined by the Bankruptcy Court Trustee. The employees will still have healthcare insurance benefits until Nov. 30, 2017 at the earliest.
In one corner of the terminal, Hawaiian Air flight attendants turned out with a box full of lei and lots of hugs.
Many of those members have lived through other shutdowns.
"It was heartbreaking to hear the news about Aloha Airlines so we remember that, and we wanted to show our support for Island Air," Jaci-Ann Chung, a flight attendant with Hawaiian Airlines said.
Some workers proudly wore t-shirts emblazoned with "The Island Way." They say it embodies the spirit of Island Air.
And so a community says Aloha, Island Air, and Mahalo for 37 years.
Island Air joins a list of other failed airlines that operated inter-island in Hawaii.
- Go! Airlines shut down in 2014, after seven years.
- Pacific Wings, 2013.
- Aloha Airlines, 2008.
- Mahalo Air, 1997.
- Discovery Airways, 1990.