Honolulu airport's new concourse expected to ease congestion

On Aug. 27, the airport opened the Mauka Concourse worth $270 million at Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport. This is the airport's 28th anniversary of its first gate expansion.
The Aloha State's busiest airfield will see the concourse improve efficiency and reduce wait times.

The concourse, which covers 230,000 square feet in Honolulu, expands Terminal 1 to accommodate either six widebody or eleven narrowbody gates.

This project marks the first major expansion of Terminal 1 since it opened in July 1993.

Ross Higashi, deputy director of Hawaii Department of Transportation Airports Division, stated that it's almost 30 years since something of this magnitude was built. "This will be a lasting memory in Hawaii's airport history."

The new concourse will reduce the airport's midday congestion from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. during peak hours. It is also expected to decrease the 12- to 15 minute wait in TSA lines. The terminal can now accommodate ten security checkpoint lanes instead of seven.

It is common for passengers to queue up on sidewalks to get tickets at the ticket counters during peak hours. This has a psychological impact on travelers, Higashi stated.

Higashi stated that passengers were given the impression they were late or that something was wrong. "Now, people can line up in the terminal. It will make it a more enjoyable experience for all."

Hawaiian Airlines will use the new concourse, Higashi stated. Hawaiian Airlines operates about 50% of flights from Honolulu Airport.

He said that the terminal has high ceilings and a large seating capacity. There is also glass that lets natural light in from all four sides. The beauty of this is that the aircraft can park on three sides, or three sides, of the concourse. It makes it extremely efficient.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic in 1994, about 57% of the state's 37 million passengers used the 15 state airports to board or leave planes in Honolulu.

Higashi stated that the new Mauka Concourse is not as well equipped for retail services and food options due to pandemic disruptions.

He stated that businesses are in dire straits and it is difficult to predict the future with this new Delta variant. "We will be expanding the food and retail space in the concourse but there has been some hiccup because everyone has been financially affected by the pandemic."

The Department of Transportation aims to achieve a minimum of Silver certification through the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program (LEED). A concourse design was used to increase energy conservation and sustainability.

These features can reduce water consumption, increase air conditioning efficiency, allow natural light, and block excessive solar heat.

The Mauka Concourse's opening marks the completion of the $2.6 billion-dollar effort to modernize the state's airports, which began in 2015. Some projects are still in progress.

The new Honolulu Consolidated Rental Car Facility, valued at $360 million, is set to open in December. This 370,000-square foot facility will consolidate all rental car offices under one roof, streamlining shuttle operations. There will be 4,500 parking spaces for rental cars. This will allow for more public parking.

Higashi stated that the project's beauty is its ability to reduce traffic at the airport and provide a one-stop shop where customers can rent a car.

A new U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspection station will be installed at the Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport on the Island of Hawaii.

Higashi stated that the airport had stopped accepting international flights after the 2008 recession. However, as travel recovered following the economic downturn the state decided to allow flights from the United States again. A temporary inspection station was opened at Kona airport in 2016 by state officials and the federal government.

Higashi stated that the new permanent customs facility worth $58 million is expected to open in October.

Further down the line, Maui's Kahului Airport will receive a new hold area, which will increase space for passengers waiting to board their flight. The construction is expected to be completed in 2024. The airport will soon add screening lanes, additional TSA personnel, including dog teams. A permanent upgrade to security checkpoint capacity is planned for the future.

Kahului is the second busiest airport in the state. Higashi stated that security clearance wait times are among the five most slow of all U.S. airports.

Governor Higashi has seen an increase in Covid-19 cases in the islands due to the delta variant. David Ige and officials from the state discourage Hawaii tourism at this point. Higashi anticipates that all the improvements at Hawaii's airports will be used soon.

Higashi stated, "We've been through turbulent periods before." "There was the downturn following 9/11. After the 2008 recession, there was a downturn. SARS was there, and now it's the Delta variant of this pandemic. Hawaii has proven to be a destination of choice and people will want to return.