Visitors face long lines, long wait times at airports on first day of pre-travel testing program

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — The first day kicked off for Hawaii’s pre-travel testing program, and thousands from the mainland took the opportunity to come to Hawaii.

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However, for some visitors, their Hawaiian vacation got off to a rocky start. They waited hours in line before being able to exit the airport quarantine free.

In the afternoon at Kahului Airport on Maui, lines wrapped around the airport, with some having to wait hours.

Jeff Smith, who flew in from Northern California, said it took about two and a half hours to finally get their QR code scanned for the Safe Travels program, so they could begin their vacation.

“We’re here. It’s been a long day though. It’s been a six-hour flight [from Los Angeles], and we’ve had to spend another couple two to three hours in the airport trying to just get out of the airport. That’s the frustrating part,” said Smith.

He said that the airport could have been better prepared. Maui County Mayor Mike Victorino agrees.

“Ours went long, the line, because of the five flights within a two hour period. Bam! Everybody came off and you’re talking about nearly a thousand plus people needing to be screened … We just … they couldn’t keep up with the volume.”

Mike Victorino, Maui County Mayor

He said this combined with some passengers showing the wrong test, or tests that aren’t by the state’s trusted partners led to a major backlog.

“More space and more screeners [are needed]. So, we’re going to be working with the airport and the airport’s division to see what we can do in that area to have that change done by tomorrow, if not by Saturday,” said Mayor Victorino.

The long lines weren’t just on Maui. In Kona, the line of travelers stretched outdoors.

Honolulu also saw a backlog at times, leading some arrivals to wait on the plane.

“You have to be really patient. When I [got] off the plane, the flight in front of us was only one hour before, so they held us on the plane for a little bit just to clear the congestion coming off. It’s a pretty long line to wait,” said Shawn Pimental, who is a local musician returning home.

Lieutenant Governor Josh Green said that they saw more than 8,000 passengers come into Hawaii, and officials are learning as they go.

“The lines are long, but people will not have COVID, and we will get that sorted,” said Lt. Gov. Green. “We want to make sure that as we see now the patterns of travel … my understanding is that there’s more inter-island travel than had been expected over to Maui and that will be a focus.”

“What we may have to learn is how to spread some flights out a little bit, and we might also learn how much testing we want to do.”

Lt. Gov. Josh Green

People say the process to verify their pre-travel testing only took a few minutes once they got to the front of the line.

“We’re excited to be here. We’re a part of the first group that’s coming, and we’re here for ten days, so we’ll have plenty of time to relax,” said Smith.

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