Mauka Concourse at HNL - What's missing?

Something Big Went Missing at Honolulu Airport: Visitors Take Notice

The new and in many ways beautiful 230,000-sq. ft. Mauka Concourse at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL) accommodates up to 12 planes and should help to eliminate prime time pressure between 10 am and 3 pm. It opened in August of 2021, adding nearly 30% to the airport’s gate capacity. But as pretty as it is, the term “putting lipstick on a pig” may apply. For as much as it cost (more than a quarter billion dollars) and the capacity and cosmetic uplift it gives to the appearance of the aging Honolulu airport, you’re in for some surprises, one of which is that you’d better still pack your lunch.

Mauka Concourse at HNL

The terminal is primarily used by Hawaiian Airlines, which said when it opened, “The Mauka Concourse will offer an improved experience for Kamaaina travelers and visitors, our employees, and all other airport users.”

Gone are those amazing and unforgettable floral fragrances unique to HNL.

We’ll add that the new concourse is air-conditioned and fully enclosed. For as many years as we’ve both been flying to and from Honolulu, we have adored the unique open-air feeling that hits you on arrival and the literal smell-the-flowers outdoor atmosphere that has defined the airport. That is sadly missing now.

Editor Jeff recently flew from the Mauka Concourse to review Hawaiian Airlines economy class to Los Angeles. Luckily he had packed his own food and wasn’t hungry at the time. Nonetheless, the surprise was there was no place to dine, and a sign directed him back to the interisland Terminal 1’s grim food court for options. The terminal looked like it could have been in any big city.

There are plans for additional food services within the new concourse, but to date, nothing is happening. The problem is that the building permits have not been approved for whatever reasons.

Grim HMS Host remains the concessionaire for HNL food services.

A pop-up doughnut shop and bar were to open initially, followed by other restaurant options later. But nothing has happened thus far. City Planning and the Honolulu Fire Department have rejected various HMS Host plans. In addition, the Wastewater department said there was no application for a connection to the airport’s sewage system. And that, more than one year after the huge concourse opened. Something doesn’t add up here!

The food at the airport has been rated the worst of all airports surveyed in the U.S., and it is understandable why. What doesn’t make sense is why Hawaii has allowed this situation to continue. Just letting our minds wander, countless possibilities could make the food at HNL a gastronomic and cultural standout. We’re reminded of the incredible food options at Singapore’s Changi Airport. Instead, food choices at the closest Terminal 1 are fast food (Burger King) which closed by 5:00 pm., and Stinger Ray’s. We last ended up at Starbucks.

Share your thoughts about the new Mauka Concourse at HNL.

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83 thoughts on “Something Big Went Missing at Honolulu Airport: Visitors Take Notice”

  1. I would like to add I am scheduled to return in March of next year. I am not looking forward to my arrival which will be awful at the new terminal. My husband and I have visited Hawaii for the last 30 years once or twice a year extending our stays up to 3 months. I am not looking To a gleeful arrival. I don’t even know if I have a place to stay because of the Gold Coast condo restrictions to 90 days. Even though I made the reservations before I left in March of this year.

  2. I used the new concourse in March of this year.. Did not know you needed to walk and walk and walk and walk to get anywhere once you got off the plane or had to walk getting on the plane.. It was not well marked at which direction to go to get to baggage or any other place.. I hope there is innerterminal transportation once inside that concourse your sunk unless it’s changed. My kids took me to the airport to come back to Oregon and we drove around for 30 minutes looking for a parking place.
    Also it was a surprise you couldn’t get a sandwich or anything as you waited for your plane since you have to get there hours ahead of time.

  3. Arrived from Oregon on Hawaiian and had to walk to farend of the baggage claim. Made no sense and was very irritating. Why can’t the closer baggage claim used. Just made no sense.

  4. As a Hawaii resident I can say “good riddance to overpriced, unhealthy, terrible food”. I will not miss 150% marked up restaurants nor the disgusting mini store sandwiches. The real story would be a class-action law-suit against purveyors gouging travelers a 200% markup for a bottle of water. Having to walk past establishments with miserable, underpaid employees is in itself an eyesore. The uncluttered, new terminal is a welcome change.

  5. This makes perfect sense. Since Hawaii is trying to reduce tourism, why would it provide good food, outdoor ambiance, and wonderful natural fragrances at its primary airport? That would defeat the purpose.

    1. Spacious but yes a long walk to the far end baggage. Again poor planning also with the no food concessions. No building permits because that office has had scrutiny issues possibly. HNL does not greet with an Aloha tropical ambiance. Poor execution.

    2. Yes! After our miserable experience last week at HON I tend to think the new governor should be happy about this as well as $1000 fines for using the wrong sunscreen.

  6. Hawaii airport has to be one of the absolute worst Honolulu the one I’m referring to. I’ve been to the new terminal and yes I completely agree with the review.

  7. Funny that this topic came up. My husband and I landed on Saturday and we talking about what a wasted space that was. No food options. We figured more was planned but for now it’s just wasted space. We fly in four times a year. We miss the open air spaces. As soon as you stepped off the plane you new you were in Hawaii…🌺

  8. People griping about the food quality and having to walk a bit more. No sympathy from me. Can’t stand the transformation of airports into malls. Eat at home before you drive to the airport or wait until you arrive at your destination. Or pack few snacks. The human body was designed to survive without consuming calories every two hours, trust me on that. No wonder >50% of us are obese: food, food, food.

    1. Agreed! The only reason I could see a demand for restaurants inside the terminal would be for travelers continuing on to another island after arriving in Honolulu. Let’s say you caught a 6 AM flight out of LAX, it’s now 5 hours later, maybe you have to wait an hour before your connecting flight to Kauai; that would be a good time for a meal, and I wouldn’t blame somebody for getting hungry. But if your final destination is Honolulu, for Pete’s sake, just leave the airport, and go a couple miles and get a real meal at a real restaurant!

  9. It’s such a shame of how bad our airport is. I just got back from Koreas inchun airport where it was rated one of the best. Awesome food dining and entertaining.
    We have to start moving forward and learn from the other countries


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