The state has poured $1B into Honolulu airport upgrades, but travelers aren’t impressed

Honolulu’s airport has long been a disappointment for travelers.
Published: Sep. 21, 2022 at 2:58 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 22, 2022 at 7:41 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu’s airport has long been a disappointment for travelers.

And despite recent improvements, a new survey says that hasn’t changed.

The 2022 North America Airport Satisfaction Study ranks the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport as the second worst large airport in the continent. Only Philadelphia International Airport ranked worse.

“It’s a little confusing to find your way around here, kind of outdated, not enough food courts and stuff like that,” said Vanessa Ramirez, who traveled to the islands from San Diego.

The long TSA lines and the shortage of parking add to the dissatisfaction.

“Our airport is perhaps one of the most terrible pieces of public infrastructure ... the worst experience for the public, and it hasn’t meaningfully been improved in a comprehensive way in generations,” said state Sen. Chris Lee, chair of the Senate Transportation Committee.

But aviation experts think Honolulu airport’s low ranking was skewed by travel delays that were caused by the sometimes confusing Safe Travels program.

“Honolulu gets unfairly dinged for the COVID thing when either the airline or the person drops the ball,” said Peter Forman, an aviation industry expert.

To improve the passenger experience, the state in recent years has poured about $1 billion into the airport. Projects include the new $377 million car rental facility and the $270 million Mauka Concourse.

“We feel like there’s some things we’re doing that are definitely upping the passenger experience. And we think folks will like it when they see it,” said Department of Transportation spokesman Jai Cunningham.

He said the smaller projects have also improved customer satisfaction.

“We’ve also spent millions of dollars and upgrading the bathrooms,” said Cunningham.

“The three pedestrian bridges skybridge, as we have over there had been replaced just this past January.”

Some travelers said they liked the changes.

“We just arrived and I like it. I like the open space. While we are passing to baggage claim, you have nature and trees and everything,” said Roman Hajtol, of Denver.

Among large airports, Tampa International ranked the best. The best “mega airport” was Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport followed by San Francisco and Detroit.

Passengers also weren’t fans of another Hawaii airport: Kahului. Maui’s main airport ranked second to worst among medium-sized airports, just above Hollywood Burbank.

Among medium airports, Indianapolis was named the best by travelers.