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Inescapable Hawaii Flight Delays. Here’s What To Do.

We’ve written about Hawaii flight delays now for months. And while we thought it would start to improve, it only gets worse. With our upcoming meetings in Honolulu and Maui, it’s hard to know any longer how far in advance to leave. It’s pretty nuts. Our post today includes our best strategy for dealing with this new phenomenon.

What on earth is causing these flight delays?

No one has a real answer. We’ve asked Hawaiian Airlines, which has a disproportionately high percentage of delayed Hawaii flights, and they have not been forthcoming. We’ll meet with other airline executives in November, and you can be sure we’ll be asking pointedly and reporting back to you.

As to whether one runway being out of service in Honolulu could be the cause, we’d say not likely. That has been going on for some time, and if it were the issue, then flight schedules would have already been revised to accommodate that, wouldn’t they? That leaves the answer we recently received from a Hawaiian Air person at HNL as the most suspect: lack of personnel.

Sunday’s flight delays went like this:

  • 115 Honolulu Hawaii flight delays.
  • 57 Maui Hawaii flight delays.
  • 29 Kauai Hawaii flight delays.
  • 18 Kona Hawaii flight delays.
  • 9 Hilo Hawaii flight delays.

Last week we reported 316 flight delays in a single day.

Think that was the end of it? Not. Yesterday, Sunday, saw another spate of Hawaii flight delays, once again mostly impacting Honolulu but also seen widely at all of Hawaii’s airports. We started receiving messages about this early in the day. A friend trying to get to Kauai from Honolulu called to tell us about her two-hour delay, and then another delay was announced. In the end, she was 3 hours late, stuck in a miserable terminal with no options.

How to prepare for Hawaii flight delays:

1. Check during the week before travel to know how many and what percentage of your airline’s flights are delayed. That will give you an idea of what to expect. Don’t rely on airline websites for this information. Use a professional tracking resource.

2. Look for the prior day’s delays late in the day since those change and increase as each day progresses. Check these flight delays yourself on FlightAware delay tracking.

3. Also, use FlightAware flight tracking to check to see if your flight will be on time and to find the incoming plane that will become your flight. Look for the “where is my plane” link. That will take you to the incoming flight. Did it leave on time? That’s a good indication of whether your flight may be late, although it doesn’t tell the whole story.

4. Expect to be delayed and plan accordingly. If you aren’t delayed, be pleasantly surprised, and please let us know. Most of our recent Hawaii flights have had at least some delay, and that’s also what you are reporting to us, and our friends are as well.

5. Don’t expect to find great food choices at Hawaii airports. As you know from yesterday’s uber-popular article on the new and disappointing Honolulu Airport Mauka Concourse, there are virtually no food options. We realize you’re also concerned since that article has been read 50k times. Not only is that concourse totally lacking in food, but in the next terminal over (and it is a walk), you’ll find almost everything shuts down by 5 pm. We mentioned yesterday that the food choices at Hawaii airports should be unique, stand-out, and world-class. But instead, we have a miserable third-world concessionaire which offers terrible choices. Expect grim food choices at Hawaii airports when you find any.

6. Don’t count on Starbucks, either. While we found them open later than other options, their hours also seem variable. Today, the Terminal 1 location closest to the Mauka terminal appears to be closing at 5:30 pm. Other locations in the airport are closing at 8:30 and 9:30 pm. But don’t count on that either, as these can change quickly based on available staffing.

Two of your Hawaii airport food option comments stand out:

Stan said, “For as much as Hawaii has to offer the world food-wise, the options at the airport are depressing in Terminal 1 and non-existent in Terminal 2. Chain restaurants have their place, but the locally owned restaurants in Hawaii having locations open in the airport would be a great way to head out for folks about to leave on a long flight.”

Jim added, “We just returned from that airport (HNL) and to say it was a disappointment is an understatement. The only place to get something to eat was Burger King. Forty-two dollars for 2 Whoopers, fries, and two drinks.”

Jeff concurs, as he also got stuck on a no-other-option $21 veggie burger on a recent HNL jaunt.

Please be prepared for Hawaii flight delays, and then let us know how it goes.


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21 thoughts on “Inescapable Hawaii Flight Delays. Here’s What To Do.”

  1. Friday October 28th our Hawaiian flight (#25) from Portland, Oregon departed 2 1/2 hours late due to a late crew arrival the night before. We made up time but missed our Kona connection (#288) since we spent 25 minutes waiting for a gate. It took 3 standbys and 5 1/2 hour wait before we finally took off for the Big Island.

  2. I flew Southwest from HNL to San Jose nonstop on 10-31. It left on time and arrived 15 minutes early. Good service. All of you composing – tell us the airline and date, etc. I was in Hawaii for three weeks and three islands from 10-10 thro10-31. I flew SOUTHWEST inter island and non-stop from San Jose to Kona and later HNL to San Jose. No issues; good service. If the complainers only post then the story is skewed. I am happy with Southwest.

  3. While using an app like flight aware is useful, just as an fyi it does not always tell the tale. point in case Today , Nov 1st San Diego to Honolulu flight 15. flight aware is still saying ” scheduled ” 8:00 am departure however the Hawaiian air web site is showing a ” Delayed ” 12:25 pm departure. Looking at the flight aware you can see the plane still sitting ( and its 10:00 am San Diego time ). I use both apps plus the ” my TSA ” app these days.

  4. Knowing what we know about airlines, airports and delays, it just makes sense to pack your own snacks, be ready to be stuck in the airport with no food and you will have an easier time. I always travel with a few cliff bars and a couple of apples in my travel tote, you never know where you will be stranded and for how long. If you know that HNL has crap food – make sure you eat before you go to the airport. Nothing worse than crappy airport food and long lines. Be proactive.

  5. Alaska Air 302 on Saturday Oct 15 and 301 Saturday Oct 29 left and arrived on the dot. On 29th Lihue to San Jose it arrived 30 mins early (favorable trade winds I know). Great service on board. Alaska has never let us down over 20 years. We absolutely love them. Great phone customer service now that they’ve recovered from 2020 and hired/trained enough people.


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