United CEO says Honolulu’s dilapidated airport could hold back travel growth

‘We’ve got to fix this’: CEO of United Airlines points out flaws of Honolulu’s aging airport

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A strong U.S. economy and a booming local tourism industry point to continued growth for airlines serving the mainland-to-Hawaii market.

But United Airlines’ top executive said that Honolulu’s aging airport could be holding back future travel here.

“I hate to be over dramatic but we’ve got to fix this. This is the jewel of this island. People love coming here and we’ve got to have an airport that represents it,” said United CEO Oscar Munoz.

Munoz, who met with members of the local media Tuesday, is in town this week to tour United’s Hawaii operations.

He said ongoing construction and deferred maintenance at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport is taking away from the visitors’ experience.

“I toured this airport with our team this morning ... and literally things are coming off the wall," he said.

The company -- which has served the Hawaii market for over seven decades and employs 1,200 people at Honolulu Airport alone -- plans to do its part.

Over the next several years, it will invest $200 million to upgrade its own terminals and facilities.

The state Department of Transportation, which is overseeing the multi-year, $3 billion renovation of the airport system, has expressed similar frustrations. But it does say it’s making progress on the upgrades.

It cited the new terminal for Southwest Airlines, which launched its West Coast-to-Hawaii and inter-island flights earlier this year.

Munoz said United is well-positioned to compete with Southwest. United has the most flights between here and cities in North American and two years ago, it expanded its local operations by adding 11 daily, round-trip flights.

“We have deep roots here ... understand the culture, we employ a lot of folks here and I think our general level of service will continue to be dominant," he said.

Copyright 2019 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.