What You Need to Know About Flying Through Honolulu

Find out what’s new at Hawai‘i’s busy airports and keep 10 travel tips in your pocket to navigate them successfully.


Runway at the Honolulu Airport

Photo: David Croxford


Summertime means lots of travel to and from Hawai‘i. Federal officials predict a record number of travelers at the state’s airports and nationwide this season. And that’s comparing to pre-pandemic 2019 numbers.


How busy is that? For the four-day holiday at Memorial Day, which kicked off this summer, 113,000 departing travelers were screened at Honolulu’s airport of a total of 200,000 statewide. For all 430 airports nationwide, the TSA reported 9.8 million travelers that weekend.


Sure, Honolulu got zinged for being tops in delays recently. InsureMyTrip researchers tapped HNL for the highest delay rate in the country—29.8%—for the first quarter of 2023 based on the insurance company’s data analysis. Rounding out the top 10 were: Las Vegas, Nevada; San Francisco, California; Palm Beach, Florida; Kahului, Maui; Līhu‘e, Kaua‘i; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Orlando, Florida; and San Diego, California. Hawai‘i transportation officials say extensive updates to Honolulu’s longest runway, 8L, meant it was closed from October until May of this year.


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Another airport improvement that should help travelers is a $36 million baggage system that can now process faster as well as another scanner to double capacity from 400 bags an hour to 800 bags an hour, according to Ford Fuchigami, deputy director of airports. New work at Kahului includes canine helpers at check-in and increased holding room capacity during construction with plans for a new TSA checkpoint, Fuchigami says. Here’s to speed and location accuracy.


Hnl New Baggage System 800 bags per hour

New $36-million baggage system at Honolulu airport. Photo: Hawai‘i Department of Transportation.


SEE ALSO: 5 Tips for Traveling on Long Flights With Kids


Busiest Days and Times

The TSA warns us that Honolulu’s checkpoints are busiest from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 8 p.m. The busiest days to travel locally and nationally are Thursdays, Fridays, Sundays and Mondays.


To make travel a better experience for all of us, HONOLULU rounded up travel tips gleaned from state officials, the Transportation Security Administration and some of our savvy globe-trotting buddies.


SEE ALSO: Listen to HONOLULU’s Managing Editor on Have Aloha Will Travel


10 Travel Tips and Tricks

  1. Before you travel, sign up for TSA PreCheck to make your life much easier and lessen your time in line. Why? On average, the TSA says 89% of PreCheck travelers wait an average of five minutes or less compared to 15 to 30 minutes for those without. And that saves you the hassle of taking off shoes, jackets and belts, removing laptops from cases and busting out the travel-size liquids and gels from carry-on luggage.
  2. Take advantage of the new PreCheck for teens. Since June, TSA PreCheck travelers can now bring their 13–17-year-old family members through the expedited line in addition to children 12 and under.
  3. Check before you park. Scope out where you’ll need to be the day before you go to the airport. We’ve all parked at the international terminal when flying interisland or the other way and ended up jogging across the airport. Save the hassle and check your ticket to see if you need to be at Terminal 1 or 2, then park in the matching structure.
  4. Be ready to pay more to park. Long-term parking rates at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport rose on July 1, 2023. Now, it’s $2 more to park overnight, going from $22 to $24.  Parking for 6–7 hours of parking also went up $1 to $20 and 7–8 hours rose from $20 to $22. Just running in and out? We’ve still got the free 15-minute grace period, and it’s still $1 for up to 30 minutes.
  5. Pack liquids correctly. They need to be 3.4 ounces or smaller and in a quart-size ziplock bag.
  6. Get there early enough to park (if you need to), put your bags through the U.S. Agriculture screening stations before you check in and get in the TSA lines. The airlines recommend arriving 2.5 hours prior to departure for international and continental flights and 1.5 for interisland.
  7. What can’t you take that’s pretty to the other 49 states? Any lei that include citrus-related flowers or leaves, such as mock orange, pandanus or hala, jade vine or Mauna loa flowers.
  8. What can’t you take that’s food to the other 49 states? Most fruits and vegetables are NOT allowed without USDA inspection, such as papaya, banana and lychee, which must be treated and packed in sealed, marked boxes.
  9. What CAN you bring that’s food to the other 49 states and Guam? Coconut, coffee, processed food including frozen mango without seeds, fresh pineapple and most fresh flowers.
  10. Prepare for checkpoints. If you don’t have PreCheck, before you reach the checkpoint, put your wallet, phone, keys, loose change and sunglasses in your carry-on rather than have to use a bin to speed through quicker.


Be kind and patient, have fun and safe travels!


International Parking Garage cars parked and signs on pillars

Honolulu’s International parking garage. Photo: Hawai‘i Department of Transportation