HONOLULU (KHON2) — It was a busy day at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport on Thursday, the first day Trans-Pacific travelers can show proof of vaccination to bypass quarantine. Thousands of travelers took advantage of the change to the Safe Travels Program, but it’s been a bumpy ride for some.
The first day of the vaccine exemption left many waiting in long lines.
Natoya Chung, from Salt Lake City, said she thought the entire process was “just too much.”
“The line was pretty long,” Chung explained. “We thought it was really short at first, and then we got around the next side and it was a longer line. The process was about 45 minutes to almost an hour.”
Alvin Exevea and his family were visiting from San Diego and said half of them used their vaccination cards, while the other half got tested.
“My daughter and wife got through pretty easily with a COVID test versus our vaccination,” Exevea said.
He said they waited about an hour, and the majority of problems seemed to be with people who were using their vaccination cards.
“They said about 90% of the cards that were submitted through Safe Travels had not been reviewed by Hawaii yet,” his wife Denise explained.
Safe Travels Program administrator Sheri Kajiwara said that “all vaccination cards issued out of state have to be manually reviewed.”
Most people were fairly understanding and expected some delays since it was the first day the change went into effect.
“Overall, I’d say it was very good,” said John Szott who is vacationing from Chicago. “We had to wait in a line that took about a half an hour, but once we got up to the processing [agent], things went quickly and we were on our way.”
The modification is expected to boost visitor numbers.
There were 39,172 trips registered in the Safe Travels program database slated to arrive Thursday.
By late afternoon, 27,945 had already been screened compared to the 31,307 total travelers who arrived the day before.
By 4 p.m. Thursday, 14,834 arrivals used the vaccination exemption and 10,854 had pre-tested, compared to the 2,402 that showed proof of vaccination and 25,127 who pre-tested the day before.
A number of travelers like Kacey Miller from California opted to do both, just in case.
“I was nervous that my vaccination record would not be sufficient, and I didn’t want to get stuck anywhere, so I went ahead and did the test as well,” Miller explained.
Officials want to remind all travelers that they still need to create a Safe Travels account. They should upload proof of vaccination and need to bring the hard copy with them for verification upon arrival.
Only the official CDC vaccination record card, A VAMS print-out, or a military vaccination administration record are acceptable documents. Doctors notes will not be accepted.
Click here to create or log on to your Safe Travels Account
For more information about the program and Hawaii travel requirements, click here.