TSA Hawaii

Our Take | TSA Travel Advisory on Hawaii This Summer

You may want to get off the beach an hour earlier than planned, and here’s why. Read on for our suggestions on the TSA travel advisory out this week about, and what to expect in Hawaii this summer. Bottom line is that Hawaii about to see a surge in visitors that may result in extremely long lines.

“We have so many additional flights with other airlines and new routes, larger aircraft as you’re probably aware that has in of itself caused the number of passengers coming through the checkpoints to spike.” — Lorie Dankers, TSA spokesperson. She went on to say that all but one of Hawaii’s airports are fully staffed, and that their goal is to keep lines to under 30 minutes.  “We are still recruiting on Lihue to hire some additional officers.”

In summer 2018, TSA screened more than 5 million passengers at five Hawaii airports, including just under 3 million at Honolulu International Airport. Summer 2019 is expected to break that record.

Here’s our take on TSA Travel advisory on Hawaii.

In our experience, TSA lines in Hawaii have become completely unpredictable. On one recent occasion, lines were so long at Lihue that Jeff missed his flight entirely. He had arrived at the airport 2 hours in advance of his departure, and that just didn’t cut it. Apparently due to under-staffing, only one checkpoint was open. On the next occasion, braced for another round of the same, both of us were extremely pleased (and surprised) to find the entire screening process took under 20 minutes.

How to reduce lines and plan for such variability.

Arrive early. TSA is recommending travelers arrive 3 hours in advance when flying from HNL. At other Hawaii airports, they are recommending 2 hours, although as we just said, that did not work for us reliably.

Look for less crowded checkpoints. It doesn’t hurt to check and see if a line in one area of the airport is much than another. That was how we got through in under 20 minutes last time.

Avoid prohibited carry-on items like liquids. “Just keep that in mind with prohibited items, they do cut down on the efficiency and speed of people making it through the security checkpoint.” — TSA.

Consider TSA PreCheck. That usually saves a lot of time, but we have found, that on occasion, that line can actually be longer than the regular line, at least here in Hawaii.

Avoid the busiest times when possible. Those are typically Thursdays through Sundays, and from 9a-1p and 7p-11p. That is when the bulk of Hawaii departures occur (inter-island and trans-Pacific).

Organize carry on bags. Be sure you can quickly remove electronic devices, appropriately packed liquids and food to not hold up the line.

Wear easy to remove shoes. Anything hard to remove, bulky or cumbersome just slows down the line.

Contact TSA with any questions. You can reach them under the handle AskTSA on Facebook and Twitter.

Bonus suggestion at HNL.

One tip we love to share about Honolulu International Airport is to visit the lovely and unique airport gardens. These offer sunny and shady areas and make for a perfect and restful picnic spot too, if you are lucky enough to have extra time once clearing security and before for your flight.

The Chinese, Hawaiian and Japanese Gardens were built with the airport in the early 1960’s.  The gardens were intended to depict the various cultural influences on our “island living.” Paths, bridges and stepping stones connect the three gardens. There are sculptures and water features including garden ponds and lakes which are symbolic of intermingling of cultures in Hawaii.

14 thoughts on “Our Take | TSA Travel Advisory on Hawaii This Summer”

  1. Thank you so much for all the info!! My husband and I were able to take our 3 kids to Oahu this last week because we got in on those first southwest deals from Phoenix for only $88 each way! We did have a stop in San Jose on the way there and Oakland on the way back. The flight there went smoothly with no issues. We had the app downloaded on all the kid’s tablets so they could watch movies. We loved Kailua Beach, which you just did an article on. Our flight returning home was delayed 2 hours so we unfortunately missed our connecting flight to Phx. They put us in a hotel for the night and gave us flight vouchers. Now looking forward to maybe another trip to a different island without the kids. Thanks again!

    1. Hi Jilene.

      Thanks very much for that report. It’s useful especially inasmuch as Southwest Hawaii flights are still so new.


  2. Hello there. We are planning to visit Hawaii for the 1st time between Aug 21 to Aug 29, 2019. We are desperately in need of guidance with this special trip celebrating.my.baby sister’s 59th g’day. We’ve decided Maui for 4 days & 5 days for Big Island. PLEASE GIVE YOUR INPUT & ADVISE BEST PLACES TO GO where we don’t need to spend too much. THANK YOU KINDLY. We would like to make this Hawaii vacation truly memorable. We’re all stressing out, especially me as so hard to stay glued to the computer to gather as.much information as I can while I struggle with my frozen shoulder for many years now. Your expertise is desperately needed. Thanks in advance.

  3. We saw the warning in the Honolulu Star paper and got to the airport at 7:30am for a 10:50 Alaska flight to Seattle. We were quite prepared, got up at 5am.
    Funny thing is no ag checkers were even operating there yet and no alaska air staff was there yet either, all closed up. We waited outside for well over an hour before any sign of life and then they had set-or prep time to do before they could begin .
    By then there was about 100 of us in line heeding the advise but the airport staff is not on the same page as the TSA warnings.

  4. If you have a pacemaker don’t go through the new pre-check line in the Hawaiian Air terminal. First of all it will take you forever to get through the line because there is only one counter in that small space. Second and most importantly, the idiots that moved the pre-check over to that location didn’t notice that the ceiling was too low to install an x-ray machine. You will wait forever to be patted down by an agent.

  5. I really enjoy reading the info Beat of Hawaii!! We went thru there yesterday HNL to LAX. Arrived at 11:00am dropped the rental car, shuttle, checked our bags and got our boarding tickets. The line for TSA was extremely long and everyone had the same reaction 😧!! Our flight was 2:35pm I thought we would be running to get to the flight on time but the line moved surprisingly quick! We got to the screening and were told not to take off our shoes!! TSA also pulled people out of line for a Seattle flight that leaving shortly and put them at the front of the line! We had time to have lunch and 20 minutes to spare before boarding. So yes definitely get to the airport early!! Btw we were on Hawaiian Airlines! FYI LAX was packed @ midnight!!

  6. We traveled to Hawaii in December. My wife and I have Global Entry so we could use the TSA PreCheck Line. The rest of our party had to use the regular lines. We were the only ones in the Pre-check line and were through security in less than 2 mins. The rest of our party had to wait in line for almost 90 mins. If you travel a lot I highly recommend either Global Entry (which includes Pre-Check) or just the TSA Pre-check.

  7. I was surprised yesterday when I received no e-mail from you until late afternoon, and it had nothing to do with your take on the Southwest schedule that finally was posted. There was a lot of speculation leading up to it, and then no comment! I thought at first that your e-mail had been lost somehow, but under “Southwest” above it’s the same one I read! I did receive two e-mails, before and after the schedule was posted, from another source.
    We’re planning on going to Maui in November and I did find a flight for $159 one way on Southwest, but then I checked Hawaiian and theirs was $199 – so my sister and I (we generally travel with them) decided to fly Hawaiian because we decided that (1) Southwest is having too many problems with cancellations and delays, and we don’t want to deal with that when we have our lodgings already booked, and (2) Hawaiian probably has somewhat larger seats than Southwest and at least gives a semblance of a meal. Now we’re wondering about Kona, because the present plan is to go there for four days after Maui. We’re finding that the flights so far are much higher from Kona to the West Coast (SJC, OAK, or SFO). Any suggestions on when would be a good time to book? We’re early, obviously, so no hurry.

    THANKS for any help you can give on the comment I just posted!

    1. Hi Arlene.

      Sounds like you would like to know what cost from Kona to Bay Area should be for November and when it is available.

      You did not give any dates and November is a combination of low and high seasons due to Thanksgiving. There are $234 one way flights from Kona to Oakland most of the month except some of the dates right around Thanksgiving. On Alaska Airlines. Depending on your travel dates it could go slightly lower. There are one-stop flights for less too.


  8. The last time we flew out of Lihue the line for security went all the way down the sidewalk almost to the southerly cross walk to the parking lot. It took almost two hours just to get through the line. I would share a picture we took while waiting from an elevated position. It was a sea of Hawaiian shirts, sun dresses and upset travelers. Unfortunately, some ruined their aloha they just spent 7 plus days acquiring and lost it. None of us like waiting in lines, but if you had too, I’d rather be doing it in Hawaii.

  9. The most intense security screening Ive ever experienced was leaving Lihue airport. I was quite surprised since I flew in from Oakland and their screening was mellow in comparison. Seemed to me it should have been just the opposite !

  10. Ive traveled several times on American Airlines where the flight attendants actually made an announcement to passengers about being at airport 3 hours for their return flight. They have been doing this for several months.

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