$300M HNL Mauka Concourse: Still Terrible After 3 Years

It was just a year ago we last reported on the disappointing state of Honolulu Airport’s Terminal 1 Mauka Concourse, a project that cost well over $300 million, and counting. Our recent visit this week, exactly a year later, was to see what had hopefully changed for the better. It revealed, however, that not much has happened, and unfortunately, the situation has worsened for visitors and apparently financially for the airport.

After spending a third of a billion dollars on construction and incurring ongoing costs to maintain, air condition, and staff this often-underused terminal, it remains a glaring example of the inefficiencies within Hawaii’s disappointing infrastructure projects.

Honolulu continues to rank among the worst airports in the U.S.

As reported in our previous article, “Hawaii Airports Rank Worst in US After Billions Spent,” HNL continues to struggle with operational efficiency and passenger satisfaction despite significant investments. This poor ranking further highlights the broader issues within Hawaii’s airport infrastructure and raises questions about the expenditure’s effectiveness in improving the Hawaii visitor travel experience.

Furthermore, in a time of contracting Hawaii visitors and flights, this stands out as a huge waste of money that might have been better spent on upgrading the existing airport facilities.

Despite the significant investments into modernization, such as the Mauka Concourse, Honolulu and other Hawaii airports continue to rank poorly in the JD Power survey of US airports.

Many commenters on Beat of Hawaii have echoed these sentiments.

For instance, Norvin emphasized that airport improvement should be a priority given Hawaii’s reliance on tourism, including the outdated infrastructure at the neighbor island airports like Lihue, Kona, and Hilo.

Others, like Kenish, described HNL as one of the most dysfunctional airports, highlighting issues like poor curbside column numbering and inefficient design. Airlines have told us off-the-record, that they concur about the design problems that render Hawaii airports highly ineffective.

Some commenters, such as Don, criticized the design of the new terminal, pointing out its impractical layout and lack of amenities, while others emphasized the need for better maintenance and cleanliness at Hawaii airports.

Still, others have pointed out the huge missed opportunity to highlight the best of Hawaii in this new terminal, which might include Hawaii food offerings and shopping. Duncan Donuts vs. Malasadas were one example given.

These comments underline a widespread dissatisfaction with the current state of Hawaii’s airports and a call for more effective management and thoughtful planning to enhance the traveler experience.

How big a role does the lack of a Hawaii Airport Authority play?

As reported in our previous article “Hawaii Airports In Disarray: New Appointment, Same Critical Systemic Failures”, Hawaii remains one of only three states in the U.S. without an independent airport authority. Stakeholders widely see this lack of independent management as a major barrier to effective operation and accountability.

Many commenters have expressed frustration with the outdated infrastructure and inefficiencies throughout Hawaii airports, pointing out that creating an independent airport authority is crucial for improving all aspects of airport performance.

This sentiment was echoed in user comments emphasizing the need for dedicated, professional management to address the systemic issues plaguing Hawaii’s airports, including lack of proper maintenance and unexpected and painfully long maintenance outages.

Hawaiian Airlines and Terminal Usage.

Terminal 1 was purpose-built for Hawaiian Airlines. Our visit on July 3rd (2024) showed a terminal virtually devoid of use. Hawaiian Airlines operates very few flights departing from this terminal. For instance, only Gate A12 was active during our afternoon visit, which had just boarded an international flight to Pago Pago, American Samoa.

The next flight wasn’t to be until 7 PM, to Salt Lake City, followed by an 8:20 PM departure to Los Angeles. Aside from these, the terminal appeared to remain unused for departures for the rest of the day.

As far as we can tell, Hawaiian Airlines international flights cannot arrive at that terminal, as US Customs and Immigration is located in Terminal 2. Busing passengers between terminals would make it possible, but we are unaware of any such plans or even the need for them.

HNL Mauka Concourse

Facilities and amenities are shockingly lacking.

The terminal’s facilities are severely deficient, contributing to its sometimes ghost-town atmosphere. Here’s what we found.

Restaurants and Bars:

Dunkin Donuts Honolulu Airport

There is one restaurant and a bar in the terminal, both of which were deserted. The restaurant’s menu was unappealing, and online reviews were equally discouraging.

There is a Dunkin’ Donuts, which was closed during our visit, and a small grab-and-go facility attached to the restaurant. While we intended to eat at the restaurant there, with the few choices offered, we reverted to otherwise not exciting Starbucks food options in the inter-island terminal.

Seating and Comfort:

The terminal’s main lobby is enormously large! Yet, it features only one row of seats along one wall, which we have captured in BOH’s lead photo above.

Access to Food:

If you want food, besides the dismal choices already mentioned, you must walk back to the old interisland terminal. There, you’ll find a Burger King, Starbucks, and other options. However, these start to close very early, and for the evening flights, your choices will be next to nothing. By 6 PM, only Starbucks and Burger King remained open in that distant interisland terminal.

Reflecting on the comments from our previous article, many of our readers expressed their frustrations and disappointment with the terminal. Here are a few notable ones:

User Feedback about the terminal:

One reader mentioned, “I travel frequently through HNL, and Terminal 1 feels like a ghost town. It’s baffling how much money was spent for so little utility.”

HNL Mauka Concourse amenities critique:

Another comment highlighted, “The lack of dining options and closed facilities make long layovers unbearable. The state needs to address these issues urgently.”

Operational Concerns:

A frequent commenter noted, “Despite being Hawaiian Airlines’ terminal, it rarely feels like it. Most flights still operate out of the other terminals, making Terminal 1 seem like a costly afterthought.”

Lack of Local Flavor:

Surprisingly, there are no shops or local vendors in the terminal. Many of our readers previously suggested that Terminal 1 could have embraced Hawaii’s rich culture by featuring local-themed vendors and selling Hawaiian delicacies instead of a mainland chain like Dunkin Donuts, which, by the way, was closed.

A frustrated traveler added, “Why isn’t there a malasada shop or local Hawaiian food? It feels like a missed opportunity to showcase our culture to visitors.”

These comments underscore the general sentiment of disappointment and frustration among travelers who expected much more from such a significant airport investment like this one.

The long-delayed Mauka Concourse was completed three years ago.

After years of problems, the state airports division broke ground on the Mauka Concourse in Terminal 1 on May 30, 2018, and completed construction on August 26, 2021. The first concourse expansion at HNL since 1995, the new concourse includes gates that can accommodate wide-body jets, and was thus intended to reduce the need for Hawaiian Airlines passengers to walk between Terminals 1 and 2 for overseas arrivals and departures, while freeing up remaining gate space in Terminal 2 for other airlines.

Honolulu Airport’s Mauka Concourse in Terminal 1 continues to disappoint.

The state of the Mauka Concourse continues to raise questions about the allocation and utilization of funds for Hawaii’s infrastructure. Despite the initial investment and ongoing maintenance costs, the terminal remains underused and poorly equipped to serve travelers. This situation is not just a disappointment for travelers but also a stark reminder of the challenges faced by Hawaii’s infrastructure projects.

We will continue to monitor and report on the developments of the Mauka Concourse, hoping for future steps to improve the situation. For now, we advise travelers to be prepared for a sorely lackluster experience at this terminal.

We invite you to share your experiences and thoughts about Mauka Concourse Terminal 1 in the comments below. Your feedback helps us understand the broader impact and keeps the conversation going about the improvements needed.

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41 thoughts on “$300M HNL Mauka Concourse: Still Terrible After 3 Years”

  1. Have you had the pleaser of staying the night at Lobby 4 if you missed the last flight from HNL to Lihue? A disgrace to Hawaii, visitors and residents. No aloha within Lobby 4.

  2. I’ve traveled to Hawaii many times from the mainland and I have been frustrated to see that my late or early evening flight is on a concourse where all the restaurants are closed. Now, I just forget about buying any food from the terminal and pick something up from a restaurant or grocery store. That’s better because I can get more options.

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  3. The majority of fights Hawaiian operates do a turn and are there for just a few hours. This is so times are reasonable at destination cities. By the late afternoon/evening, there are only a few planes left for the night departures. I believe only Flts 9,5, and the the seasonal 77 from LAX terminate and stay overnight. This is for the overseas flights. All the interisland flights terminate at HNL so the gates should be full by the end of the day.
    Food options probably revolve around the peak departure times. It does suck for those travelling off peak though. Just grab a Zip Pac on your way to the airport.

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  4. As mentioned by many terminal 1 is a ghost town for at least 14 hours each day
    If one wide body jet is parked two adjacent gate are deemed unusable
    During Covid shut down for 18 months no improvements were done till second half of 2023
    Immigration counters had zero renovation nor the intro island Wiki Wiki. Bus service was updated
    Rendering HNL more like a run down 1960’s airport

  5. Complete waste of money. No 24 hour restaurants. Bathrooms only in one area. Complete waste. Need an airport authority that knows airports.
    Kona needs a second runway. It was originally planned but cut. Kona needs better terminals and jet ways. More restaurants and fast food.

  6. I flew out of it last month for the first time (usually I’m in T2 or inter-island terminal). I had an earlier flight to LAX and it was dead. Other than my flight, there weren’t any others. It could have been nice, but it’s so plain architecturally, zero ambiance. The palm tree lights throughout could be so cool if they weren’t white. If it’s supposed to be a plan tree, why the heck would you not paint them green? It would also give a cool vibe to the terminal. It all seems like it was built for any small to mid size airport on the mainland. Like you mentioned, the food options are non existent, I went to Starbucks in the interisland terminal. Such a waste of everything (space money, food options, aesthetics).

  7. So very sad to see the new terminal, looks like a scary place, so bare. I was in HNL airport 2 times. Once in 1965 on a Military charter to Okinawa on Continental Airlines, only about 1 hr 20 minutes. The next time in 2010 flight from Tokyo to Seattle stopover HNL. The Second flight I was 6 hours, I saw nothing wrong then. Hope can do something with upgrades, new terminals, you would think with business to HNL, the terminals be more like Singapore style

  8. Costs less for janitorial services if it is empty and the need to hire more airport security is less. The attitude I got from airport staff was to go to work and quickly go home. Somehow IMO supporting tourism in Hawaii is not a top priority or strong suit. Maybe Hawaii just don’t care. The buildings condition and not being kept up plus runway problems tells the whole story.

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  9. Just another in the long line of endless Hawaiian government failures…Gov Green and team will only make things worse across the board. Rhetorical question, when do Hawaiian citizens say enough is enough?

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  10. The Mauka Concourse is a strange design with a lot of space that could be put to (much) better use. A lot of walking to/from the gates with very little in terms of food and other things. Perhaps HNL could consider adding sleeping pods or some other commercial features that might attract flyers to this concourse. Also, don’t forget the check-in and baggage claim areas related to this concourse — both are among the worst I have ever encountered in the U.S. and beyond. HNL, if you are reading this, how about better signage/information for arriving passengers about where to go to pick-up their luggage?

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  11. Why make an airport welcoming if the goal is to cut back on tourism? IMO maybe the HTA just wants to know if it is so inconvenient that it could sway a tourist from traveling elsewhere and disposing of some good hard earned money at another vacation destination. I’m sure glad the HTA can rely on the tourist’s eye’s and ears (comments)in providing answers for all of Hawaii’s future problems. Nobody can be in two places at the same time.

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  12. Flying early morning to LAS in May I was amazed at how empty the terminal was. Cavernous misuse of space and resources. Only 3 HA flights were operating from what I could see – To LAS, LAX, and an interisland IIR… Great space, ridiculously poor use of it… Par for the course…

    Best Regards…

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  13. No suprise to me. Since it involves tourists then Pay a lot and get little in return. Rent has to be super high at the airport because everything you purchase is at least 50% higher priced than example an ABC store. Vendors IMO can’t make any money so why even rent a space. No wonder a corporate Dunkin Doughnut store is the only thing on the new addition. I remember an ABC store asking $1.75 for a 20oz soda and leaving HNL in a vending machine it was $3.50 and that was in 2009. IMO Hawaii has adopted the “Pay a lot and get little in return” type of thinking for years. No wonder hotels, tour companies, restaurants, scenic fees, beach fees, parking and car rentals are all following suit. The apple surely don’t fall far from the tree.

    3
  14. I am a Hawaii resident. They have spent hundreds of millions on the terminals and there are restrooms with only two urinals and 2 toilets.
    At an Airport! How stupid is that?!
    And people Hate those stupid Dyson all in one sink fixtures. — Another stupid and expensive idea.
    Mainland airport restrooms are great. They can’t do anything right here. Idiots in charge that’s why.

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  15. Privatization is the only answer for our airport problems. Our Airport Commission has demonstrated their incompetence.

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