Honolulu Airport to get $200 million face-lift
|||Graphic: Renovations at Honolulu International Airport|
By Scott Ishikawa
Advertiser Transportation Writer
Dark, sprawling and slightly worn around the edges, the main terminal of Honolulu International Airport is about to be transformed by a $200 million, four-year renovation that will address some of the facility's biggest shortcomings and expand its capacity.
The first phase starts in November with an $18 million project that will create a larger, central security checkpoint in the middle of the terminal, reducing lines at the smaller checkpoints now in narrow corridors near the gates.
A new visitor information center will be built there, along with a mini-mall with a variety of shops and restaurants. That work should be completed by next fall.
Starting in 2003, moving walkways on the terminal's second level will be built to help move passengers to the Diamond Head and 'Ewa concourses.
In 2003, work will extend the Diamond Head concourse to add three gates for domestic and international flights.
The main terminal has not been renovated since the early 1980s. Passengers and tourism officials have complained that the terminal is dark and antiseptic, lacking any distinctive touches that tell passengers they have arrived in Hawai'i. The airport can also be difficult to navigate and lacks many of the amenities found in newer airports.
Japan Airlines regional sales manager Gilbert Kimura said the renovations are overdue and will be welcomed by airport workers and visitors.
"These changes will be a definite plus because our airport now competes for international tourists against brand-new airports in Narita and Hong Kong, which are beautiful and convenient," Kimura said. "There have been many complaints by passengers on getting around, as well as how we provide them with quality-time activities while they wait for their flights."
Tom Renville, United Airlines managing director for Hawai'i operations, said the changes could help snag a different visitor: the business traveler. Honolulu is the nation's 22nd busiest airport, with 13.3 million passengers using the facility in 1999.
"The renovations could add another dimension in becoming more diverse to attract the leisure and business traveler, particularly with the new Hawai'i Convention Center," Renville said.
The airport will also install pyramid-style skylight roofs at the entrance to the main terminal ticket lobby. One set of roofs is already completed.
"Particularly when the large tour groups arrive at the airport, the check-in lines are long and sometimes head out the door," said transportation design engineer Guy Ichinotsubo. "The new roofs will shelter the passengers from the rain but allow an open-air setting."
But while transportation officials want to make the Honolulu airport more user-friendly, state airports administrator Jerry Matsuda said the department also hopes the renovations will help the airport make more money. More than half of the $330 million brought in by the state airports system last year came from duty-free shops and other concession fees paid by stores and restaurants.
Matsuda said airports everywhere are looking at ways to find money to cover increasing operating costs.
"Right now, all of our retail shops are located here and there," said state Department of Transportation construction engineer Jeff Chang. "The idea is to put the retail stores together as a one-stop shop."
The renovations are being paid for through a combination of state money consisting of airport concession and landing fees, and federal airport improvement grants.
The visitor information center will feature video screens showing activity at each of the nearby airport gates.
"Passengers can see if people are already waiting in line to board, or if he or she has more time to eat or shop," Chang said.
A tropical theme will run throughout the public area, with plans to incorporate artwork, music and Hawaiian design, he said.
Kimura said he believes the moving walkways will eventually replace the Wiki-Wiki shuttles that shuttle passengers around the airport.
"You need a people mover when you have a 747 from Asia bringing in at least 400 people in the morning. They're tired and don't want to wait their turn for the shuttle," he said.
In the meantime, the airport is buying electric/propane-powered buses to replace the aging Wiki-Wiki trolley system. The state last month awarded a $2.6 million contract to GEM of Hawai'i to supply the first of 10 buses by the end of the year.
"We have three Wiki-Wiki shuttles that run on diesel; two of them are without air conditioning," Matsuda said.
Reach Scott Ishikawa at firstname.lastname@example.org or 525-8070.