Maui CARE Flights, travel gift program launched for Maui wildfire-impacted families

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VC: Wendy Osher (5.22.24)

A new travel gift program was announced on Wednesday, providing more than 3,000 roundtrip Alaska Airlines flights, as well as Disneyland tickets and accommodations to Maui families affected by the Aug. 8 wildfires.

The Maui Care Flights begin with 180 individuals aboard a special charter flight from Maui to Disneyland, July 11-14, 2024. That will be followed by 180 roundtrip tickets per month on Alaska Airlines from August 2024 through December 2025. Airline representatives say this will provide opportunities for more than 3,000 impacted Maui residents to take a trip at their convenience anywhere Alaska flies.

Hotel stays for the Disneyland trip are provided by Marriott International with Disneyland Resort assisting to make the visit possible with two day park hopper passes.

Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci (left) and Gov. Josh Green (right). PC: Wendy Osher (5.22.24)

The announcement was made during a press conference at the University of Hawaiʻi Maui College by Gov. Josh Green, M.D., in partnership with Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci, Maui Office of Recovery head Josiah Nishita, Marriott International Market Vice President – Hawai‘i and French Polynesia Jon Kimball, and Dustin Kaleiopu, a Lahaina resident and lead at the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement’s Kākoʻo Maui Resource Center.

“It’s been, almost 10 months since the tragedy occurred here in our beautiful space, in West Maui,” said Gov. Green. “Residents have navigated tragedy and recovery, heartbreak, new schools; communities have relocated; People have been moved about, and it’s been really, really difficult. We also know that if we can provide some positives in people’s lives, it helps them heal,” he said.


Partners said the concept was born out of discussion in the wake of the wildfires of doing something good for the people of Lahaina as the one year mark nears. “There’s been changes. There’s been stress. There’s been trauma galore. But we’re hopeful that we can now, just take a little bit of the edge off of that trauma by something special,” said Green. “They’re going to Disneyland—which doesn’t suck. It’s fantastic… But also, it’s not just that trip—which is magical, of course… It’s special because you need a little bit of time away… This is right at the end of the first school year.”

The launch also coincides with the transition of families from hotels into long-term housing. “So it’s another breather. It’s a break. It’s intentional in that way, and it will help people connect with their families. A lot of people haven’t even got to go visit their families that may be on the mainland since the fire because so much turmoil and economic challenge. So in many ways, this is a very smart program, but also it’s generous and compassionate,” said Green.

“This gift of travel will give our survivors, who have gone through so much, a chance to reconnect with loved ones, see new places and create new memories together,” said Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen in a post event news release. “The generosity of Alaska Airlines and partners is a wonderful example of the compassion that our residents need as they continue to recover from the devastation of the wildfires.”

Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci. PC: Wendy Osher (5.22.24)

Ben Minicucci, CEO of Alaska Airlines said he’s humbled and honored to launch the Maui Care Flights program.

“Together with Gov. Green and Mayor Bissen, these were conversations we’ve had over months. It’s our commitment, to Hawaiʻi, to Maui— to help support the community in recovery,” said Minicucci, who was on Maui the day of the August wildfires.


“I was here because I love this island… and like the whole world I was horrified by the devastation of the fires,” said Minicucci. “Alaska is all about people and care, and we know that travel can offer a break from the mental toll of recovery. We hope that this gift of flight provides a bright spot for Maui families as they navigate the rebuilding of this incredible community.”

“It is the road is long, and I will say Alaska Airlines is with you. We’re with you here ’til the end… We’re here to support in any way we can. And for us, this is just the beginning,” said Minicucci.

Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement Kākoʻo Maui Resource Center Lead and multigenerational Lahaina resident Dustin Kaleiopu. PC: Wendy Osher (5.22.24)

The Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement will manage the intake process. Interested individuals and families can fill out a short application form online at or in person at CNHA’s Kākoʻo Maui Resource Center.

Applicants will need to provide their FEMA assistance number and pre-wildfire address. Those who do not have a FEMA assistance number can verify eligibility through other methods. Priority will be given to families with young children or kupuna, looking to travel with their whole family together at one time.

“With summer vacation right around the corner, families will be afforded the opportunity to enjoy a much needed respite from the day to day stress of their disaster recovery. With focus being on rebuilding and restoring our neighborhoods and our community, our hope is to see families restoring and rebuilding their peace and happiness through the gift of travel,” said Dustin Kaleiopu Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement Kākoʻo Maui Resource Center Lead and multigenerational Lahaina resident.


“As someone who works full time in disaster recovery, and as a lifetime Lahaina resident who was also directly affected by this disaster, I look forward to seeing my friends and my neighbors taking flight and experiencing the world once again,” said Kaleiopu.

“The Alaska Airlines program exemplifies the spirit of aloha, a key component of conducting business in Hawai‘i,” said Kūhiō Lewis, Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement (CNHA) Chief Executive Officer. “CNHA is eager to contribute to bringing relief and joy to a resilient community that has faced significant hardships.”

Marriott International Market Vice President – Hawai‘i and French Polynesia Jon Kimball. PC: Wendy Osher (8.22.24)

“It’s been an incredibly difficult 10 months since the wildfires devastated Lahaina, which impacted so many in our community and several thousand of our associates who live on the west side of Maui,” said Marriott International Market Vice President – Hawai‘i and French Polynesia Jon Kimball.

“I’m so proud because at the end of the day, it is all about the people, and we talk about these beautiful hotels we represent, but it’s the people that provide the service every day that really, distinguish each and every great hotel,” said Kimball. “Our Marriott teams in Anaheim are super excited to welcome everyone to Anaheim.”

“When Alaska called me and said, we know, would we be interested in partnering, and providing room accommodations, it was a hands down, absolute, yes. We couldn’t be more supportive of pulling this together. It was an easy decision. The partnership is all about doing what’s right and about bringing comfort and happiness and joy to those most impacted,” he said.

Gov. Josh Green (left) and Maui County Managing Director and head of the Maui Office of Recovery Josiah Nishita (right). PC: Wendy Osher (5.22.24)

“Through efforts like the Maui Care Flights program, we appreciate the investment into the health and well-being of our residents as they’re truly this county’s greatest asset and strength,” said Maui County Managing Director and head of the Maui Office of Recovery Josiah Nishita. “On behalf of Mayor Bissen and our community, mahalo for making this all possible. We really appreciate it and looking forward to future partnerships ahead.”

Wendy Osher
Wendy Osher leads the Maui Now news team. She is also the news voice of parent company, Pacific Media Group, having served more than 20 years as News Director for the company’s six Maui radio stations.
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