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Full airports, full planes: Holiday travel to and from Hawaii is in full swing

Published: Nov. 24, 2021 at 6:58 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 25, 2021 at 12:04 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Flying for Thanksgiving? Get to the airport early.

That’s exactly what many folks did Wednesday, one of the busiest travel days of the year. COVID measures are complicating things, but not deterring the crowds.

“This is our first trip out of the state since the pandemic,” said Peter Maskell, an Oahu resident traveling to the mainland.

“We’re ready to get back into flying again. We picked to fly on the busiest day of the year, everything is full — the plane is full, there’s no room on it.”

And planes to Hawaii are also full.

This past weekend, Hawaii averaged around 34,000 trans-Pacific arrivals a day. The prior weekend, the state saw around 24,000 passengers.

One University of Hawaii travel expert says the state is seeing similar numbers to pre-pandemic holidays, even with a small international market coming in.

He said that’s because people are itching for a warm vacation destination and there’s a lack of options out there right now.

“We have one of the lowest cases of COVID out there,” Jerry Agrusa, a UH Travel Industry Management Professor. “And when you compare to other sea sand and sun destinations, like Mexico, like the Caribbean, those are our direct competition there. We are way, way, way safer.”

The rise in travelers can be attributed to eased restrictions and an increase in vaccination.

Resident Kathy Takahashi was headed to Las Vegas on Wednesday to spend Thanksgiving with family.

“It’s been a couple of years so we’re kind of excited,” she said. “We have some high-risk people, so we’ve been really cautious, that’s the main thing,”

With more people flying in and out of Hawaii, the state Department of Transportation recommends getting to the airport three hours before your flight.

At Honolulu’s airport on Wednesday afternoon, the nearly 5,000 parking stalls were not filled up yet but passengers were being urged to get dropped off.

Officials also provided the following tips to make your travel experience easier:

  • Try to weigh your check-in baggage before you arrive. Most airlines charge extra fees if your bag is heavier than 50 pounds.
  • It helps the TSA screening process if you have your ID and your ticket ready when you check in.
  • Liquids in carry-on bags cannot exceed 3.4 ounces.

Meanwhile, the state’s Safe Travels program is still in place. This means travelers must upload a vaccination card or a negative COVID test taken no more than 72 hours before the final leg of their trip.

Residents flying back to Hawaii can also upload their documents to Safe Travels early to get a wristband for their flight and skip the screening process when they arrive.

If you are not vaccinated and have not taken a COVID test, you will be required to quarantine upon arrival.

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