Trapped in Paradise: A Look Beyond Holiday Inn Express Waikiki's Elevator Fiasco

Trapped in Paradise: A Look Beyond Holiday Inn Express Waikiki’s Elevator Fiasco

In the heart of Waikiki, a recent incident at the Holiday Inn Express, formerly known as Maile Sky Court, raises concerns about the reliability and safety of its facilities. Last Wednesday, an alarming event unfolded when ten guests were trapped in a stifling hotel elevator for more than an hour. The situation, described as “extremely hot” by Honolulu Emergency Medical Services, resulted in three people requiring hospitalization.

This incident underscores potential maintenance and safety issues and casts a shadow on the hotel’s facade. Despite the hotel’s transformation into the largest Holiday Inn Express in the United States in 2017, guests, including us, have consistently reported painfully slow elevator services, among other issues. Many have said that the relatively recent rebranding, replete with modest $30M upgrade, did little to improve the underlying issues of the long-aging structure. The hotel is reportedly in a long-term franchise agreement with the Holiday Inn brand but that there is flexibility for at least partial rebranding as a separate hotel, or the possibility of units being sold as time-share.

Reviews we found from visitors over the past months paint a mixed picture, as does our own recent experience.

Some guests appreciate the clean rooms and the convenient free breakfast and have highlighted it as a budget-friendly option in an otherwise expensive city. On checking, however, we found that prices have been heading north and are running close to $300 per night.

Others have expressed frustration over service inconsistencies and infrastructure woes, in particular the elevators, which are a regular source of guest frustration. We always dreaded using the elevators due to the crowded elevator lobby and the very long waits.

A reviewer from April voiced their irritation, saying the elevators “made me grow old waiting for them,” a sentiment that resonates oddly with the recent dangerous incident and with our own experiences. There are 44 floors and six elevators. The problem is that half are for the upper floors, and the other three are for the lower floors. We had extremely long waits, and by the time the elevator came, so many people were trying to cram in.

The first responders attended to the trapped guests promptly, with firefighters and an elevator technician arriving soon after the incident began. However, the ordeal that guests endured lasted so long, nearly 90 minutes, that heat-related hospitalizations ensued for two teenage girls and one adult male.

This points to a larger issue of outdated infrastructure and questions about routine maintenance. The hotel’s management has responded online to various guest complaints with assurances of addressing their concerns. The fact that these complaints are recurring, however, suggests more systemic issues that can’t be addressed in online review responses.

Holiday Inn Express Waikiki rebranded in 2017.

We felt somewhat duped by the rebranding of the infamous but still lackluster property without a substantial remake to bring it more current. Unfortunately, from the moment we walked in and remembered where we actually were, the experience started going downhill.

For a hotel under the well-regarded Holiday Inn Express brand, located in the bustling Waikiki area, not far from the beach, the expectations of both quality and safety are obviously high. Both Hawaii visitors and residents, however, are met with a different reality. While the hotel does offer some nice amenities, including free breakfast, that isn’t enough to overcome the shortcomings. Beyond that, the rooms are mostly rather small, and very dated in appearance.

History of Holiday Inn Express/Maile Sky Court.

The 596-room hotel features 44 stories, including a 5th-floor miniature golf course, board games, and more. It was built in 1984 and was previously an Aqua brand hotel property.

This incident is a reminder of the importance of ongoing maintenance and updates in Hawaii hotels.

That is even more true in Hawaii, and in older buildings, such as the forty-year-old Holiday Inn Express. To our knowledge, the hotel has never been fully renovated. For Hawaii visitors, the incident is a reminder to read recent online reviews carefully.

What’s next for the Holiday Inn Express Waikiki?

The road ahead will hopefully include more than just a superficial look at an aging infrastructure. For now, we won’t be returning to the property, and Hawaii visitors should seriously consider whether a stay here, pending significant improvements, including the elevator service, is a good choice.

Have you stayed at Holiday Inn Express/Maile Sky Court? Please share your thoughts.

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17 thoughts on “Trapped in Paradise: A Look Beyond Holiday Inn Express Waikiki’s Elevator Fiasco”

  1. Quite a bit of the elevator issues should have been caught by the Inspection. Elevators are “supposed to be” inspected by a trained professional employed by the City, before the elevator is given a license to operate is given. Why wasn’t any of this discovered? Why were they not shut down until they were fixed and reinspected? That’s standard operating procedure! It appears that someone isn’t performing their job properly or with concern with people’s lives. Another “Black Eye” for Waikiki and Local Government! Holiday Inn Express Corperate needs to step in and reevaluate the property and management ASAP.

  2. We stayed at Maile Court many years ago. The first time, it was relatively new and adjoining rooms were (at that time) considered one room, giving us plenty of space. There was even a small kitchenette connecting our rooms. We had a very nice stay.
    Flash forward to a few years later, the rooms had been divided and kitchen access was only available to the “deluxe” portion of the room.
    The other, smaller, portion of the room was now billed and booked separately. Big down grade in my opinion. On Site Parking had also increased significantly in cost. This was the last time we stayed there, instead opting for a vacation rental on the North Shore the next time we came to Oahu.

  3. I was disappointed with reservations. They quoted me a price but upon check in, it went up more than a $100.00, plus reservation said we’d get an ocean view, which we didn’t get. Room was clean but so small good thing we only needed the one night.

  4. We stayed there many times when it was the Maile Sky Court. The elevators were slow back then and there always seemed to be a crowd of people waiting. I’m sure the split design plays into the wait times. And if you’re ever stuck in an elevator, press the emergency button and then call 911. The fire department can easily open the doors. I’m a retired firefighter and have opened all kinds of elevator doors during my career.

  5. No Way , imma be in an elevator with 7 other People . Heck No! I woulda pushed my way out.

    Ive been in many Aged hotels and some questionable elevators.. (worst was Luxor in Las Vegas)

    I would Simple Excuse my way off the elevator and wait for another.

  6. The elevators might be old and need service but there should not be 10 people in an elevator. I bet people will think twice before cramming in a crowded elevator. Hope the people that were hospitalized are feeling better.

  7. Hello,
    Visited Hawaii- Waikiki for about 9 months in 2016 due to a personal issue requiring an attorney. Had no issues with bed bugs at all. Stayed in a condo telling small but ok in Waikiki. Are there some nice hotel rooms not too expensive that don’t have this horrible issue? I want to visit again for about 10-12 days. Can someone please reply. Thankyou.

    1. Been staying at outrigger on the beach , next to the Moana. Used to stay at Moana but it got too costly for us.

      Stay usually 3 weeks, nice building, nice staff all around.

  8. As expressed in a previous comment months ago, this hotel discussion is but one example of the overall ‘oldness’ of most Hawaiian tourist properties. Especially in comparison to the modern resorts stateside and abroad and, in particular, the Caribbean. The latter is Hawaii’s toughest tourist competition just a 4-hour comfortable flight from most major North American airports. Wake up Hawaiian tourist influencers/powers to be. The writing is there on the wall.

    1. We stayed at the Holiday inn in Waikiki about a month ago now, we stayed for two days and cost us five hundred dollar plus a $250 deposit that we are just now finally getting back. We were told it would be returned upon check out. Anyways while we were there one of the elevators got stuck with people in it! We don’t know how long for but the security guard came running down the hall from the parking garage and was screaming at them through the doors to push a button! try the phone! are the lights on? My wife and I decided not to take the elevator after that and went through the stairway 34 floors up! The long waits suck but beats walking up that many stairs. Needless to say we probably won’t return to the hotel the breakfast wasnt great.

  9. We are well aware of the shortage of elevator engineers to examine safety issues in a timely manner. In addition, the cost of this important service is highly expensive and perhaps that is the reason for the tourist industry has delayed such a needed inspection. Inspectors also have an overwhelming schedule to work on the many housing high rises, office buildings and medical facilities in Honolulu. Knowing of this shortage of workers for decades, why hasn’t the state gov’t and the private sector training more specialized worker? Where is the recruitment and funding from the State and Federal Gov’t?

  10. A few years ago, my wife became stuck in an elevator on Kauai during a power outage. The elevator was only a few feet up so we could “yell” to each other through the door. Hotel management told me no one on property was allowed to open the door — only the approved outside elevator specialist. Apparently the “liability” of the hotel staff did not permit them to help someone out of a stuck elevator. Quite a team of employees gathered around the stuck elevator and were sincerely concerned but “national” did not permit them to help. Is it a higher risk to rescue a guest than have them stuck for hours in an uncooled elevator with no water, bathroom, etc. ??? (yes, rhetorical question) What is this world coming to?

      1. That did occur to me after the fact. Yes, overwhelmed by the blatantly obvious. But at the time I was stressing about when the outside contractor was due to arrive. I now know better…

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