HNL Runway Debacle Thru Summer As Hawaii’s Airport Crisis Deepens

As summer heats up, so does the turmoil at Honolulu Airport (HNL). In an unsettling yet sadly predictable revelation, the Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT) just announced a further extension of the current rolling runway closures at HNL, which are now set to disrupt the busiest travel season through September.

This latest extension is not just an operational hiccup but a glaring symptom of deeper, systemic failures that have repeatedly plagued Hawaii’s airport operations. And that comes just days after the DOT announced a new airports division deputy director who is set to start work on June 4 with no prior airport management experience.

Continuous Runway Closures: A Pattern of Mismanagement

The closure of Runway 4L-22R, immediately following the reopening of Runway 4R-22L, extends a frustrating pattern of unannounced and seemingly unplanned disruptions that have become all too familiar. Over the past year, each closure has cascaded into significant operational bottlenecks, impacting flights, frustrating passengers and airlines, and further denting our all-important Hawaii tourism economy that thrives on summer visitors. Ugg!

The DOT said that Runway 4R-22L’s current closure will end just 3 days late, on June 10, as part of the HNL Runway and Taxiway Shoulders Rehabilitation Project. We do not find any such project detailed on the state’s airport website or that we can find on search. The DOT said the whole project is “scheduled for completion in November 2025.” We don’t know exactly what the DOT has planned after September, however, in terms of further interruptions.

DOT’s contractor, Orion Engineer’s website does indicate their project, “HNL Runways and Taxiways Shoulder Rehabilitation is comprised of the reconstruction of runway and taxiway asphalt concrete shoulders of Runway 4R-22L and 4L-22R, and Taxiways B, C, D, E, and F… The project also includes the complete reconstruction of taxiway C in between Runway 22L and 22R.”

DOT said Wednesday, “a full, continuous closure of 4L-22R will be needed to safely conduct the work,” consisting of runway shoulder paving and drainage work. This next closure is set to occur from June 10 through September 2, pending further changes, especially inasmuch as the DOT said that “the closure schedule is weather permitting. If additional time is needed, HDOT will update this notice.”

“Travelers may experience delays on interisland flights departing to HNL during peak hours from mid-morning to early afternoon, as transpacific arrivals are prioritized for arrivals due to the reduced runway capacity and because these flights generally have lower fuel stores after the transpacific flight.”

Hawaii Department of Transportation

Despite promises of strategic improvements under HDOT’s new airport leadership, the repetitive nature of these closures suggests a chronic underestimation of Hawaii airports’ fragile infrastructure. This recent announcement intensifies the perception of an agency struggling inadequately to transition from reactive measures to a proactive airport maintenance and management approach that is desperately needed.

Extended HNL's runway repairs through the peak summer season marks a another low in Hawaii’s ongoing airport crisis. This latest blow will disrupt travel while signalling severe systemic failures demanding urgent reform.

Challenges facing airlines and passengers.

The timing of this closure is particularly troubling. Summer, starting mid-June, is when air travel peaks and Hawaii sees an added influx of visitors. The extended runway closure makes things challenging for visitors and residents because of delays. Airlines servicing Hawaii already contend with a myriad of issues, and especially Honolulu-based Hawaiian Airlines, faces further unneeded complications, potentially leading to unforeseen issues of flight scheduling and more.

An unheard call for Hawaii airport reform.

The persistent runway issues not only at HNL, but at all of Hawaii’s airports, underscore a broader crisis in Hawaii’s approach to airport management. Critics and stakeholders have long sought the establishment of an independent airport authority, arguing that such a body could provide the laser-focused oversight and agility Hawaii needs to overhaul the current state of affairs. With Hawaii remaining one of the lone states without an independent airport authority, these repeated failures serve as an important reminder of the overdue reform needed.

Looking ahead: Hawaii’s airports and the future of Hawaii air travel.

As the HDOT continues to grapple with challenges and faces mounting scrutiny, we are left wondering if this, together with new internal leadership, will catalyze the needed changes or will instead be yet another chapter in an endless cycle of mismanagement. For Hawaii visitors, residents, airlines, and other stakeholders reliant on Hawaii air travel, a resolution can’t come soon enough.

These extended disruptions are more than inconvenient. They represent a critical juncture that we hope will reform the future of Hawaii air travel in Hawaii. As the state continues to debate the prospects of an independent airport authority, the summer of 2024 may well be remembered as the time when Hawaii’s airport crisis either finds a resolution or deepens further into chaos.

Leave a Comment

Comment policy:
* No profanity, rudeness, personal attacks, or bullying.
* Hawaii focused only. General comments won't be published.
* No links or UPPER CASE text. English please.
* No duplicate posts or using multiple names.
* Use a real first name, last initial.
* Comments edited/published/responded to at our discretion.
* Beat of Hawaii has no relationship with our commentors.
* 1,000 character limit.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

28 thoughts on “HNL Runway Debacle Thru Summer As Hawaii’s Airport Crisis Deepens”

  1. May 24th we experienced a one hour delay because of the closed runway. That fact was announced by the pilot. It was not a long delay, but he indicated the delays get longer as the day goes by. On a different subject, we have been island jumping every year since 2012 (with the exception of 2020) We wish there were more options to fly from Kona to Kauai without a layover in Honolulu.

    1. From what we’ve observed, it surely seems that way. I know a serviceman who has lived on base in Oahu for 2+ years, and he agrees that the government is inept and worse.

  2. Coincidentally, we were just discussing how HNL should try to recruit some much needed managements help from practically any 3rd world airport to help get their act together.

  3. Hawaii is quickly becoming a 3rd world country. What a shame. The people that vote for these clown politicians are just as much to blame. Keep voting my Hawaii friends because you’ll soon be broke.

  4. Hawaii government: incompetence, negligence, old boy networking and legalized bribery, all delivered with Aloha.

  5. Its not the HDOT-A’s fault a second runway hasn’t been constructed at KOA. If I recall correctly, the community pushed back when the USAF tried to construct a second runway for C-17 training in mid 2000s. Then you can’t forget the community push back on Maui regarding extending the OGG runway awhile back. In other words, its not always government’s fault projects are scrapped or held up.

    1. After a rather hard landing the flight attendant announced that it wasn’t the pilot’s fault it was the Ass-Fault

  6. Terrible management. We need a airport commission made up of people who know airports. The DOT doesn’t do a good job at all. Just Terrible.
    Kona airport needs a second runway now not 10 years from now.

  7. I found the HDOT-A website that details the construction schedule
    for this HNL Airport runway project. It includes images of the work areas.

  8. You guys are being way to hard on the new director…he may not know anything about airports, but I’m sure he has powerful friends that got him the job, that’s all you really need in Hawaii. It will be important that he doesn’t listen to anyone or communicate well either. Otherwise some contractor that isn’t well connected could get a contract and do the job better and more efficiently, we can’t have that!

    1. Wow! As a tourist I sure feel a big relief now knowing that the bright and talented folks who designed and maintain the Oahu roadways are now working on the airport runways.

  9. I am in bucket of being a critic but my intentions are to offer kokua as a concerned resident – specifically focused on improving the airport experience (for Kamaainas, Malihinis and airport workers). I recommended to HDOT leadership and Governor’s Office to form a citizen’s committee to kokua with ideas. Hawaii is a special place with a very special culture. We should bring alive our music, food, arts etc.. at the airports. Terrible that a spam musubi or malasada is missing at Hawaii airports. Imagine indoor foodcarts for local businesses in the very empty part of terminal 1 instead of an insulting mainland donut chain vs. local grinds. Hoping to get responses to my letters .. for far no responses to my offer to kokua.

    1. Great idea Stacey. I can still remember the old days of the 70’s and 80’s. So much more Hawaiiana and the welcome Aloha feeling. The smell of the plumeria leis and the tour and hotel reps all attired in local wear. Bring it all back. Good luck with your super ideas.

    2. Can only buy Spam musubi at 7Eleven before I travel. Would be great to buy in the airport before boarding a flight. Why is this not possible?

  10. Just remember you can blame the tourists for the problem….make them stop flying in to the airports and the problem will be solved. 🙂 Just shows the continued incompetence of the Hawaiian government and lack of leadership on any level.

  11. One Party Rule, a State that is dependent on Tourism for 95% of their Economy! This goes back 20 years, an arrogance that is endemic to the One Party Rule and Corruption as The NY Times exposed! Look to the Train from Kapolei to Honolulu National, oops, look to Governor Ige taking County Hotel Tax $ for the States General Fund, forcing Mayors to raise Taxes further, look to Greens directive to Mayor’s on Time Shares (these owned by people) approved by Oahu Politico’s, Green’s anti-U.S. Tourist stance . What of the Scandal at Hawaii Electric and Power?

      1. That’s a good point…the alternative to the current party in control is a party that is currently defined by blatant dishonesty, hyper partisanship and conspiracy nonsense. The real culprit is the death of bipartisanship.

    1. Once hired they show up to fill the chair but do as little work as possible and still get paid. Waiting for the day they can retire and hand the job to another relative?

Scroll to Top