As vaccinations pick up, demand for inter-island and domestic travel soars

Updated: May. 19, 2021 at 10:01 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The pent-up travel demand Hawaii economists have been predicting is coming to fruition with long lines at TSA and Safe Travels screening upon arrival.

Elfreda and Zachary Tyler, who flew in Tuesday from Virginia, said they spent 20 minutes in line for Safe Travels screening.

But depending on the airlines, other travelers were given “pre-clear” wristbands.

“It was the entire terminal length, so I was very happy to have my wristband,” said Hannah Saunders, who also flew in from the mainland to move to Kauai.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority reported nearly 30,000 trans-Pacific and inter-island travelers on Monday and nearly 800,000 over the past month.

As more people get vaccinated, airlines and hotels are competing for customers with sweet deals.

“The plane was packed,” said Sue Push, who traveled from Chicago. “There’s clearly a desire to come here.”

The state’s data shows Hawaii’s largest airline, Hawaiian Airlines, typically has more than twice the number of passengers compared to the second-largest — United Airlines.

And since vaccine passports began for inter-island travel one week ago, travel demand among resident has soared, too.

“Everything went really smooth,” said Honolulu resident Dan Dutra, who flew to Lihue. “They just checked on it and we had our QR code and away we went.”

“I haven’t seen the grandchildren for over a year so this is a really nice, pleasant trip to see them again,” said Mililani resident Lorraine Kunishima, who also flew in from Lihue.

“I’ll be traveling back to Kauai within a week, and I won’t have any reservation about doing it again,” said Gregg Schnider, of Hawaii Kai.

Before the pandemic, Hawaiian Airlines operated 184 daily inter-island round-trips. The pandemic forced the carrier to cut back to 16 a day. Now, they’re back up to 135 inter-island flights.

And there’s no shortage of kamaaina ready to travel.

“The flight was full, booked both ways going to Kauai and coming back,” Kunishima said. “But everyone was fine, everyone had their mask on, everyone was pleasant everybody was very upbeat.”

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