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:
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.