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 was surprised at the lack of dining options in the new terminal too. It’s beautiful, and the A/C is appreciated, but if you arrive hungry, the only option is sandwiches from one of the sundry stores. We always carry our own food because of food allergies, but now and again, it would be good to find a nice place to have lunch before boarding our flight home. We often frequent Stinger Rays when we land in Honolulu and wait to board an inter-island flight. The prices are pretty high, and the food is so so, but it beats food court. Hopefully there will be more and better options in the not so distant future. On the up side, a nice, new, clean concourse is always appreciated–sure beats the dreaded, old concourse C we used to fly out of.

    1. We have found Stinger Ray’s to be the best bet for food at Terminal 1 – really worth it for a place to sit and even have a beer. The servers are always friendly and efficient.

      Recently between Kauai and Kona we had time for lunch and the food arrived incredibly fast.

  2. It mazes me that restaurants at airports are not open 24/7. Not everyone has a 9-5 flight. And with the crappy airline food a decent meal during a layover or flight delay would go a long way.

  3. We just returned from that airport 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 2 drinks.

    Do better Honolulu, do better.

  4. There was a pop up bar in the new terminal, but seating is limited.I sat on a window ledge. I,too, miss the scent of plumeria upon arrival.

  5. Ah, such is the legacy of not only our airport, but basically all major projects in our state. The best people to ask our those of us who have worked there. We can do much, much better. After many travels through many airports, domestic and international, we can and need to do better. It’s embarrassing!

      1. IF tourism is of No Concern to you and others then why do you 🤔 not protest at the airport daily? The Airport, the first impression of each Island, should be a Representation of what a tourist should expect from the rest of their visit and vacation. If the airport is like Honolulu the Tourists can only Hope and Pray that things will be better when they leave it. Your problems with Tourists, they Pay Your Freight through Their Spending and You should remember that. Everything can go Downhill Quickly without them. Watch what you ask for, you may just get it. Hawaii is in a Financial Crisis, Who will be Paying for That?

  6. I haven’t been to the new concourse yet, it sounds more like an Enormous concert hall without the ushers or adequate seating. It should probably be renamed to the White Elephant and possibly they can build a miniature Taj Mahal within the spacious confines,at least it would have a purpose. When I hear about the deficient manner in which this is approached I begin to think of major East Coast Projects that seem to be forced to backroom deals and money changing hands for Approvals, hopefully this isn’t the case. Dormant space costs taxpayers money.

  7. My wife and I are fairly frequent visitors to the islands, and this is always something that has stood out to me. 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.

  8. Why, the change at airport? Should of still had open air. Oh, I see it is all about money. Who, got the kick back for including the airport. Just, like in Chicago O Hare. All, glass building in the Midwest. Exstream cold and heat. Another, bright Idea. It’s all about money. People

  9. Oh the food choices and locations at HNL are awful still. Arrived on red eye early morning and Burger King was not open until 9am. Kudos to the gals next door at the Asian food place for working early and having breakfast at a reasonable price. Departing , we thought we would run into several choices but absolutely zero restaurants in the terminal going back to the mainland. Really thought we wouldn’t still have to pack food and don’t get me started on Hawaiian Airlines food !


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