TSA Issues Warning About Hawaii Airports This Summer

Why Hawaii Airports Are A Hot Mess Now

This morning, we heard from a friend who nearly missed a flight departing Hawaii. That is due to far longer than expected lines to get through TSA security. Hawaii airports have some unusual constraints when it comes to security that you should be aware of when planning your departure from Hawaii. Add to that the fact that there are airport upgrades in process, and we are in times that are anything but ordinary.

Problem 1: Limited security checkpoints.

Primarily due to a lack of personnel, even Hawaii airports with multiple TSA checkpoints may not be able to use them. When that happens here on Kauai, or Maui, for example, the lines suddenly grow exponentially. Conversely, when another checkpoint opens, the lines dwindle.

Recently, lines at TSA on Maui have at times been up to 1.5 hours. That is according to TSA data. Another security line is being implemented, and a new screening machine is being installed. That may come in time for the upcoming Labor Day weekend but not before.

Officials are asking that travelers arrive at the airport 2 to 3 hours prior to their flight’s departure time.

Problem 2: Hot summer weather.

Plus, if you didn’t know it, it’s August, and it has been quite hot in Hawaii, especially over this past week. That’s likely to continue for at least another month. When you do need to wait in line for long periods, some of the lines may be in the direct sun. On Maui, for example, the airport was seen providing water to those in line, and they are securing shade covers to help. A number of travelers have required medical attention while waiting in line.

Problem 3: Too many travelers in Hawaii at the same time.

As post-Covid revenge travel continues unabated despite economic pressures, more domestic visitors than seen in years, if ever, are transiting TSA here in Hawaii. The lines at airport security in Hawaii this summer are longer than any of us can ever remember seeing before.

Problem 4: New TSA technologies are still being implemented.

Each of Hawaii’s airports will benefit from the installation of CT scanners and Credential Authentication Technology. Those are being completed now. See: New Hawaii-Tested TSA Security Arriving at Most U.S. Airports.

Problem 5: Airlines schedule too many flights at the same time.

There are highly desirable times when the airlines bring hoards to the airports. That, while airports can sit closer to empty 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 Hawaii’s airports:

1. Check wait times before leaving for Hawaii airports using the MyTSA app. Links to the app are as follows:

Google.
Apple.

2. Purchase optional TSA Pre-check. But be aware that pre-check has not always been available at Hawaii airports when staffing is inadequate. You’ve mentioned that in the comments. The MyTSA app tells you if Pre-check is available at your Hawaii airport. When it is working, TSA says that with Pre-check, you should expect to be in line for no more than 10 minutes. Membership costs $85 for five years and has other advantages as well. Shoes, laptops, liquids, belts, and light jackets do not need to be removed.

3. Consider the time of day when departing Hawaii. Flight departure times tend to get bunched up, which has a lot to do with the problem. Mid-day is almost always the worst time for Hawaii TSA wait times. Today, wait times are the worst on Maui, and best on Oahu, with Kauai and Kona somewhere in between. The worst days of the week here in Hawaii are usually Friday through Sunday, but every day has had issues.

4. Plan airport arrival time accordingly.

Will there be a longer than expected delay? Please don’t leave it to chance to the degree possible. You should allocate at least 2 hours for airport procedures before flight time. And in some cases, even that has not been enough time. While not directly related, do check traffic before heading out to the airport even on the neighbor islands.

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35 thoughts on “Why Hawaii Airports Are A Hot Mess Now”

  1. I want to add that I use a walker or scooter depending on how bad my Multiple Sclerosis is on any given day. But I can’t walk fast or far with a walker so I am a wheelchair passenger. I can use the wheelchair as a walker if it has things on the seat to keep it from tipping over. There is nothing that prevents me from waiting at the gate alone. I live alone and can do everything but walk. How dare a wheelchair attendant decide that I can’t be left alone at the gate? 1st time I’ve been told that

  2. We recently flew home from Kahului on Jan 7, We arrived at check in at 8:35 am, for our 12:05 Departure. There was No one at Check in for an hour? We did get checked in. Fortunately We have had TSA Pre Check for Years. As we walked by the Regular TSA line,it was Long. The TSA Pre Check was about 2 minutes.Even, after I was { Randomly }selected to have my Phone checked? I had just used the Hand sanitizer, maybe that set off a Vapor of Some sort? I am not sure if we had only arrive 2 hours early that would have been enough time if you did not have TSA Pre Check?

  3. Aloha….I must say it is becoming increasingly difficult to make my annual birthday trip to Hawaii. It has been a gift to myself for the past 25 years. And I still love my stay at the Outrigger Reef. My retirement check no longer allows for the inflated prices of the Hawaiian Islands. And, I am not alone in this
    situation. Hawaii should listen up and find more affordable ways to support themselves and their family. Because, the loyal tourist is about tapped out on available funds. The ATM is near empty. Already, I find myself searching alternatives. And yes, there a several alternatives. If it continues, all that will be there are those freedom seekers willing to live on those beautiful beaches. Sad, disappointed and disgusted.

    14
    1. Excuse me? Hawaii is not affordable. That is what we have been saying for decades. Your annual trips are now to expensive? That is not our problem. We do not have to cater to tourists. We owe you nothing. We owe ourselves the right to a decent standard of living, struggle as we might. Here in Hawaii, we do not work for you. Be respectful.

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    2. By all means, go with alternatives! Don’t think Hawaii is the only or ultimate beautiful place to have an enjoyable vacation in the world. That’s the product of post WW2 advertisement. There are many cheaper and wonderful exotic places to visit, I am sure you will be thrilled to explore

  4. As always, I arrived at HNL 2hrs prior to my flight. I’m a wheelchair passenger traveling alone for years. This time (Dec 14), the wheelchair attendant said she couldn’t bring me thru TSA and to my gate (which involves a tram) until 45 min. prior to boarding, because I was alone and obviously not capable of being left alone. I got up and started pushing the wheelchair and said I Will be going to the gate now. She gave up and pushed me, complaining the entire time. So much for 2 hours, not to mention the discrimination.

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  5. TSA in hawaii is a joke. They need to be trained on the mainland or Oahu first.They are in no hurry and think they are big important people. Glorified xray techs.

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  6. Our Maui flight was 1:40pm- arrived at 11:15 and in line by 11:30. Reached our gate by 12:30. It wasn’t as bad as we expected, but we have heard it was worse. We never reached the outside line which is covered to block the sun (newly added). We were lucky,so be sure to still give yourself ample time. Gate 5 also shared seating area with gate 6 due to construction. Take your patience and be kind. Thank you for your article!

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  7. Got to the airport and 1.5 hr before departure for an inter island and missed my flight because security pulled my bag for additional screening. Definitely get there 2 hours in advance.

    The TSA people were doing there best but unfortunately there were a ton of people.

  8. After reading about delayed and missed flights in and out of Hawaii, we have concerns about an upcoming flight. We are scheduled on a HA flight from LAX to Sydney, Australia with a 1 hour layover in Honolulu. Is one hour enough time to get from our first gate to the international gates? We’ve contacted HA but got a very vague response. Does anyone have any advice? Thanks so much!

    1. Marlene, make sure you tell the flight crew your situation. From my experience, HA is very good about situations like yours. Your connecting gate could be right next to you or could be a 20 min walk. Again, be sure and tell the FA. Also you can likely get your arrival gate from LAX and departing SYD gate from flight aware before you leave LAX. Just google the Flt numbers.

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  9. In mid-July, my family flew out of OGG, KOA and HNL. Both KOA and HNL we just fine with KOA security only taking a few minutes on a midday Saturday. Then there was OGG, circus would be a appropiate word. The TSA was looking over everyones driver’s license like they were a counterfeit $100 bill. I’ve flown in and out of 30 different US airports and never seen any ID checked this way. It took just over 2 hours from curbside to gate. Also could OGG pay for a cleaning crew. KOA and HNL were spotless.

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    1. Almost sounds like a worker slow down because they are short staffed so they say fine you don’t want to help sure we’ll pick up the slack of useless management.

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      1. The same problems in Colorado we are sick of people trashing our state expecting residents to cater to them by cleaning up your mess. Whatever you do do not vote in Recreational Marijuana or you’re going to get more trashy, disrespectful tourists.
        Mahalo

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  10. Have to add the “SWA effect” to the list of contributors to the problem. Their entry into the market with a large bank of flights from the mainland and connecting inter island flights has definitely clogged up HNL’s main terminal quite a bit.

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  11. This is a disaster because the decision to install the new equipment is in the middle of peak tourist season. This is yet another lack of foresight on the planners in our government. October install would’ve been better suited for this. Also, telling flyers that you’ll have a shade cover in a month is ridiculous. Go to Walmart and buy 20 EZ ups and set them up. Action!

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  12. Maybe it’s because I lived on Maui for 8 years and Oahu 11 but I just don’t get who or why anyone is going now.. Ill wait for everyone to clear out.

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  13. I live Kauai and was flying to Oahu recently. Had heard about the long lines so I got to Lihue airport 2+hours early, for my early morning flight. There were no lines, no problem at all. So I sat and read the news for a couple of hours. Better safe than sorry!

    Also, I have TSA precheck and very rarely do I get to use it at Lihue– that line is just usually not open, in my experience. Didn’t get to at HNL either– not sure if it was because I was on a cheap Southwest flight or what but I did enter my TSA precheck number in when I booked the flight, but that wasn’t reflected on my ticket– so I was stuck in the regular line.

    The regular line at HNL on Sunday afternoon wasn’t anything out of the normal.

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  14. Thank you for all the information.

    Remember there is a usually short line for the agriculture checkpoint, which you have to go through first, before checking your bags.

    At the Honolulu airport we arrived 2.25 hours before the flight. After waiting in a very long line to drop off our bags (Southwest Airlines), we went straight through security (Pre-Check) and to the gate and boarding had started. We could have missed our flight if we didn’t get there early.

    I think we will get there 3 hours early next time.

    7
  15. My wife and I just returned from a trip to Kauai from Sacramento, CA. While we have been hearing of problems at the airports and with flights, we did not experience any problems. We flew Hawaiian Airlines. All flights were on time (2 flights to and from the mainland and 2 inter-island). We had no problems at the airports. We were TSA Pre (worth the expense) and got through Lihue’s TSA quickly (we estimate that the non-Pre line was about a 20 minute wait). We hope our experiences become the rule and not the exception.

    4
  16. We have been a fair amount of times and never had an issue but in February, my husband was delayed at baggage check for so long that he missed the flight, leaving me to fly home alone with our 3 young kids! 😳 In that instance, their system wasn’t working properly and there was only one employee manning a long line of people. They weren’t even able to answer the radio when the flight staff tried calling down to them. It was bananas!! We will definitely be leaving hours early next trip!

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  17. It almost seems like Hawaii does not want tourist to visit the islands? Is this not Hawaiian’s main form of income? With tourism down what are Hawaiians doing for work?

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    1. B, did you read the part of the article where it says that one of the issues causing all this is that tourism is U? Way Up?!

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    2. Tourism is up, and like everywhere else we are having staffing shortages. Seems like we don’t have a slow season anymore. It’s either insanely busy or busy,

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      1. It’s really too bad our 50th state has so many problems and its number one income is tourism? Who wants to go to a place where you have so many problems with everything, just a mess. no thanks
        B

        3
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