HONOLULU (KHON2) — The governor’s stamp of approval for non-essential travelers to return to Hawaii will likely increase the number of tourists expected for the holidays, and airport officials are preparing for a busy season and hiring more workers to help travelers avoid long lines.
The airports are staffing up, making sure there are enough screeners and TSA agents to meet the number of travelers.
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Hawaii’s Safe Travels Administrator Sheri Kajiwara said the state program is aggressively recruiting airport screeners for arrivals. About 100 new workers will be added come Thanksgiving time and even more if funding allows.
“We do get reports from every airlines about how many travelers are on board so that we can better prepare to screen them on arrival,” Kajiwara said. “But I do suspect that this will be a busy holiday season.”
All six major airlines flying into Hawaii do pre-boarding checking for Safe Travels, but sometimes there are issues that require all of the screening to be done upon arrival.
“Airlines like everybody else is having staffing issues as well, so sometimes we do get a message that a certain airline was short staffed and not able to wristband any passengers,” Kajiwara said. “We need to be prepared to handle 100% on arrival.”
TSA officials are also recruiting more agents in anticipation to the holiday travel season and the Nov. 22 deadline that requires employees to be vaccinated against COVID.
“Seventy to 80 vacancies across the pacific, so we’re not in too terrible shape. I am expecting we may lose a few people as a result of the mandatory vaccinations,” Federal Security Director at TSA Pacific Area Jenel Chang said. “But we are seeing people go out, those who haven’t been vaccinated yet go out and start to get their vaccinations.”
The new mauka terminal at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport will help alleviate some of the long TSA lines, but smaller airports in the state are likely to feel more of the weight from increased travelers.
“Maui in particular is at capacity. They are actually over capacity, so we often find that we have more passengers coming through than we can screen in an hour which is what drives the wait times,” Chang said. “But we do have all hands on deck and we use our overtime.”
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The governor said starting Nov. 1 the state will begin welcoming vaccinated travelers back into the state.