Airport Upgrades Shoot Sky High

Long range goal spreads island-wide

By: Dawna Robertson

Over the next decade, plans indicate it’s going to be a pretty picture for Hawaii’s airports. Streamlined security screening, enhanced terminal-to-terminal transportation and additional parking spaces are part of a $2.3 billion plan to update five airports across the State of Hawaii over the next 12 years.

Recently detailed by Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle, the airport improvements are a much-welcomed and much-needed step for the state. Plans have been sidelined twice due to eco-nomic downturns resulting from the first Gulf War, followed by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

With the delays, other needs have added to airport wear and tear. Heightened security, increased passenger loads and day-to-day operations have made improvement needs more crucial especially with increased transpacific flights traveling directly to Neighbor Island airports which were not designed to accommodate larger passenger aircraft.

“Airports in general have and do need constant care, but Hawaii airports haven’t been getting much care recently, so it’s very important,” said Rex Johnson, CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority. “The airport is the first impression and the last impression. From a tourism standpoint, having a nice airport is very important.”

At the top of the ticket is a $1.9 billion upgrade at Honolulu International Airport. The state’s largest air travel facility will see a replacement of its 30-year-old airline gates with modern alternatives. Wiki Wiki buses will also be replaced and moving sidewalks will be added. The long-range plan, however, is to create a people-mover rail system.

To ease congestion in ticket lobbies, new in-line explosive-detection systems will be added behind ticket counters in Honolulu, as well as Kahului on Maui, Lihue on Kauai, and both Kona and Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii.