Maui Airport Sees Faster Processing, Less Mess Following Safe Travels


Kahului airport arrivals leave baggage claim recently. PC: Kehaulani Cerizo
Maui District Airports Manager Marvin Moniz. PC: Kehaulani Cerizo

The Maui District Airports Chief said Kahului airport processing times and disorderly traveler incidents have decreased since Hawaii’s Safe Travels program was lifted three weeks ago.

The statewide program was launched on October 15, 2020, as a way to reopen tourism by allowing travelers to bypass quarantine with a negative test and then with proof of vaccination. It ended on March 26.

“We’ve had a huge reduction in clutter,” Maui District Airports Manager Marvin Moniz told Maui Now recently. “We had upset people every day. I don’t know if we’ve gone a day without someone being upset.

“Even from the passenger experience, it’s much more relaxing now,” he added. “They were really tense.”

Moniz said many trans-Pacific passengers had negative COVID-19 tests from places that weren’t on the state’s “trusted partners” list. When they landed in Maui, they were angry to learn they had to self-quarantine for over a week.


Some even bought plane tickets to return to the mainland and get an approved test, then return to Maui due to expensive hotel and car reservations that were non-refundable, Moniz said.


Over the duration of the program, there have been about two dozen arrests at the Kahului airport for violations of public health emergency rules, the airport district manager said. Airport police were assisted by the Maui Police Department when the incidents escalated.

The manager said some arrivals on private jets thought they could bypass the schedule, but he had deployed a team of controllers to the separate drop-off area.

“We had a manifest for every private jet that came in and we sent a screening team there,” Moniz said. “They thought there was a way around the system, but we covered that.”


Another change at Maui’s main airport since Safe Travels ended is a reduction in processing time from 20 minutes to half an hour.

Prior to airline pre-screening that issued wristbands to passengers going through screening, some processing times reached around 90 minutes during peak arrival times, Moniz said.

About 100 people have been temporarily hired at the airport by the state for Safe Travels screening and related health work. Many moved to find jobs at car rental companies and other airport-related work.

All airport staff put in long hours on the program, he added.

“I think the end result was that we had some of the lowest death rates in the country,” Moniz said. “Even though the traveler was inconvenienced, the numbers showed the process paid off.”

Maj. Gen. Kenneth Hara, director of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, recently told The Star Advertiser that the state is unlikely ever to reinstate Safe Travels Hawaiʻi, which had a $37 million price tag. dollars, in its current form.

However, the article indicates that the Safe Travels web application is kept in case it is necessary to restart the program in other forms.

Moniz said airports continue to look to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with other agencies, for leadership and direction.

“If needed, we can restart the process, if we had another major outbreak,” he said. “We have historical experience and we can react better. It came out of nowhere, and now every agency, everyone, can do a lot better if it happens again.

The CDC, in a press release on Wednesday, said its mask order would be extended through May 3 as it monitors the spread of omicron, particularly the BA.2 subvariant which now accounts for more than 85% of cases in the United States.

“Since early April, there have been increases in the seven-day rolling average of cases in the United States,” the statement said. “The CDC’s mask order remains in effect while the CDC assesses the potential impact of increased cases on serious illness, including hospitalizations and deaths, and health care system capacity.”

The rule requires all people to wear masks at airports, bus or ferry terminals, train and subway stations, U.S. entry points and other places where people board public transportation .

Across the country, several incidents have escalated on planes over passengers refusing to wear masks, leading to arrests.

Although Safe Travels has been lifted, the travel mask mandate remains at least until May 3. PC: Kehaulani Cerizo

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