Starting today, thousands of travelers arriving in Honolulu from international destinations can walk through an air-conditioned corridor instead of braving the heat on the sidewalk or smelling diesel fuel as they board the aging Wiki Wiki shuttle buses.
The first phase of construction improvements at Honolulu International Airport’s ewa concourse has been completed at a cost of US$13.2 million. With this phase, 30 percent to 40 percent of international travelers can use the new air-conditioned hallway with a moving walkway, state transportation director Brennon Morioka said.
After all phases are finished, which is expected in August, Morioka estimated that the state will downshift from a fleet of 13 Wiki Wiki buses to eight because people will opt to use the air-conditioned hallway instead.
“We will be able to save a lot of money in operational cost,” Morioka said. And ultimately, he said, those savings go to the airlines that pay fees and the consumers who pay the airlines.
The new hallway serves Gates 26 to 30 where Japan Airlines lands most of its jets. Vice president and regional manager Ryoichi Okubo praised the state’s move to improve the airport arrival experience.
“Tourists from Japan and other countries will be able to walk in a comfortable setting,” he said.
Although this marks the completion of only the first of several phases of this project, Morioka said it is probably about one-third of the project and the key part. The entire corridor is expected to be completed next year at a cost of US$37 million, 75 percent paid with federal money.
Eventually, the corridor will be nearly 2,100 feet long with three segments of moving walkways that will take passengers to the federal inspection area for customs and immigration.
State tourism liaison Marsha Wienert said the new walkway will set the tone for a welcoming Hawaii visit. “That first impression as you know is the lasting impression,” she said at a dedication ceremony of the new improvements. Wienert said the new corridor will help with the established and important Japanese market, as well as up-and-coming foreign markets that include China and South Korea.
The airport was scheduled for a round of major improvements before September 11, 2001, but those plans were delayed following the terrorist attacks.