HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Big improvements are on the way for Hawaiian Airlines passengers at Honolulu International Airport but they will have to wait years for one key project that's already about one year behind schedule and construction hasn't even started.
Various large projects are scheduled to last another four years at HNL, costing $800 million that's part of $2.7 billion being spent to modernize airports across the state.
Construction began on airport taxi ways late last summer, part of $80 million being spent to widen and strengthen the areas where planes taxi to and from runways.
Hawaiian Airlines passengers have already noticed flight delays from that work.
"It's a long time, it's a long wait and they always explain, 'It's construction, it's not us.' And it affects the on-time, the arrival and the departure times," said Hawaiian Airlines passenger Lee Hoomana, of Waiehu, Maui who was catching a flight home from Honolulu this week.
State Airports Engineering Manager Jeff Chang said, "In the short term there is a lot of construction. There may be some inconvenience. But in the long term, they will end up with a nicer facility, more modern, more services and also a better look."
Chang said the taxi way work is required because of plans to build a new concourse mauka of the inter-island terminal, so the pavement needs to support larger, heavier aircraft . The new concourse will consolidate all of Hawaiian Airlines' flights into one portion of the airport, instead of spreading them between the inter-island and overseas terminals as they are now.
"Hawaiian is actually our largest carrier. They are actually our anchor carrier for Honolulu," Chang said. "So we are trying to provide an area where they can bring all their planes, wide bodies and narrow bodies, in one area."
That means Hawaiian passengers who make up 50 percent of the traffic at HNL won't have to travel all over the airport to board their flights.
Hawaiian Airlines passenger Samantha Kramer, who was checking in for a flight home to Kahului, likes that idea.
"A lot of times, people don't really know where to go in the airport, and they have to walk really far to another terminal and it would be more convenient if it was all in one area," Kramer said.
Mason Pasion of Waipahu, who was getting ready to board a Hawaiian flight to Las Vegas said, "That's really good, actually. That's more compact, more organized."
Construction has been delayed by one year on the new terminal project, because of delays in building a new facility for commuter airlines that operate where the new Hawaiian terminal will be built. Airport officials now estimate the mauka concourse construction will start in September of 2016 and be completed two years later, costing $220 million.
None of that money comes from taxpayers, but from airport user fees paid by airlines and concessions.
"Those are funds from user fees that are generated from our leases and our landing fees, so no public funds in terms of general excise tax revenues or general funds are expended at the airport," Chang said.
In the overseas terminal, airport tenants DFS and HMS Host are funding another $22 million to build new restaurants and retail outlets. Construction will begin in May.
"We're going to put in more shops," Chang said. "There will be more space for concessions. So again, greater revenue for the airports to do improvements and better services for the customers. Better food, better offerings from our retail."
The second-floor concession area will overhang 30 feet into the airport's cultural gardens, but the gardens will remain in place.
Tonight on Hawaii News Now at ten: why several airport projects came in over budget and why the state is spending millions of dollars to build two facilities there that it plans to demolish in several years.
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