Although the TSA and Hawaii DOT announced many changes designed to improve the travel experience departing Maui Airport, not much improvement is evident unless perhaps you have TSA Pre-check. That is according to the TSA’s own Mytsa app. As of Thursday, there were at least three periods of delays of near or over one hour waiting to clear TSA. And this comes concurrently with scorching hot, late-summer weather, whether you’re in the shade or not.
TSA said, “With continued high demand for air travel and no signs that it is slowing anytime soon, TSA has partnered with HDOT to make improvements to our security operations. These changes have been made to enhance security while ensuring the best experience for travelers, the airport community, and our employees.”
At the same time, Hawaii DOT said, “The curbside awning combined with the security enhancements will make a big difference in comfort for our travelers.” Has it really?
Passenger screening dogs to the rescue?
Passenger screening canine teams have already been added at Maui airport. “These highly-skilled dogs who are paired with TSA handlers are trained to detect explosives and explosive components. They utilize their keen sense of smell when working in and around travelers and their belongings in a busy transportation environment.”
The dogs have undergone four months of training for the positions in Texas. They then had additional training on Maui to become familiar with the airport.
TSA said that the dog teams “Are able to conduct a real-time threat assessment of travelers going through the security checkpoint. If a dog alerts its handler to the presence of an explosive odor, TSA follows an established procedure to resolve the alarm.”
New dedicated PreCheck checkpoint.
Due to increased numbers of TSA PreCheck travelers departing Maui, TSA has opened a dedicated TSA PreCheck checkpoint at Checkpoint 2, located closer to the baggage claim area.
TSA has the flexibility to convert the type of screening provided at either checkpoint as needed. This modification to the checkpoint process will benefit all travelers and increase the efficiency of security operations.
Security technology improvements.
This summer TSA added two computed tomography (CT) scanners to screen carry-on bags. These offer advanced explosives detection capabilities and generate 3-D images of carry-on contents. These images can be manipulated to allow officers to quickly see contents better and reduce baggage handling.
Electronics and food do not need to be removed from carry-on bags with these new scanners. All items must go into bins to be screened.
Maui Airport is also utilizing its four new Credential Authentication Technology (CAT) units. These match travelers’ photo IDs with flight database information such that only a driver’s license or other ID is needed; no boarding pass.
TSA’s acting Administrator David Pekoske said, “We were also able to continue the deployment of new technologies that facilitate stronger identity verification procedures and enhanced security screening for carry-on bags.”
A 200-foot-long shade tent was added last month.
The airport installed a tent for protecting passengers from the sun during long waits for security clearance. That has been augmented with another 125-foot-long tent which the county has rented.
So what’s the ongoing problem? Too many visitors.
As seen in the image above, domestic arrivals still intermittently exceed 2019 levels. Such has been the case most days recently.
While TSA indicates the longest wait times are from 9-2 and 6-9, we’ve seen today that the longest times were just from 11-2. The busiest days to travel are typically Thursday through Monday.
Flights times are all bunched together at Maui.
The airlines are scheduling too many flights at highly desirable times, which results in hoards arriving at the airport simultaneously. That, while the airport can be relatively quiet at other times of the day. The state and counties are looking into how they can work with the airlines to alleviate the bottleneck.
Tips to speed you through Maui airport:
1. Check TSA wait times before leaving for the airport. Links to the MyTSA app are as follows:
2. Purchase TSA Pre-check. But be aware that pre-check has not always been available at Maui Airport when staffing is inadequate. Maui says, however, that is improving. The MyTSA app also tells you if Pre-check is available.
3. Consider what time of day you’re departing Maui. Flight departures get bunched up, which exacerbates the problem. Mid-day is almost always the worst.
4. Plan your airport arrival time carefully. You should still plan on at least 2 hours for airport procedures before flight time on Maui.
Have you been caught in TSA lines at Kahului Airport?