Tips for departing out of Honolulu (HNL) Airport

This series of articles on Hawaii’s airports covers nearly all you need to know about flying to and between the Hawaiian islands. This post covers tips for departing out of Honolulu International Airport (HNL).

Please use this terminal map of Honolulu International Airport to follow along.

1. If you are returning your car, follow the signs to the rental car return. If you are returning your car to Budget, National, Hertz, or Dollar, please note that you do not have to catch the shuttle bus to return to the main terminal, especially if you are flying United, Continental, American or Northwest. Simply reverse the directions listed in the “What you should know about renting a car at HNL” section below to get from the rental car stations to the baggage claim, and then take the escalators to ticketing.

2. All luggage you wish to check must first proceed through the agricultural screening stations, located closest to the curb. Please note that this is not a security screening station. The USDA officials are screening these bags for fresh fruits, animals, and plants, most of which are not allowed back to the US Mainland. If you will be checking luggage, you must (yourself) send your bags through these stations. If you don’t get the required agriculture screen first, the counter agent will send you back for it…and to the back of the check-in line.

3. On busy departure days, many of the airlines lines baggage check lines are long. It’s safe to add an extra hour to the process. Please calculate this into your schedule. Flight departures on the weekend are usually the busiest time to travel out of HNL.

4. There are currently three security checkpoints in operation at most times at the domestic terminal of HNL. The interisland terminal has two security checkpoints; additional ones at the interisland terminal are open when necessary. Since there are three security checkpoints, if one has a long line, you might consider checking the other two. All three are within a short 1-2 minute walking distance away from one other security checkpoint. If you are seated in First Class on United, Northwest, Continental or American, ask the agent checking you in for a “Gold Lane” stamp on your boarding pass. HNL does not have dedicated elite/First Class security lanes, but the “Gold Lane” stamp will allow you to cut most of the line when the lines are long.

5. Once through security, the garden area (during the day) is a nice place to relax prior to your flight. Please scroll down for more pictures. Please note that beginning November 2006, there will be no smoking allowed from the curb to gate. This policy will affect all of Hawaii’s airports.

6. Please note that concessions and sundry stores at HNL are more expensive than stores at US Mainland Airports. If you need something for your flight, it is highly advised that you purchase it prior to arriving at the airport. Water is the exception, of course, but city water isn’t bad. Bring an empty plastic or reusable container with you through security to fill up from a fountain on the other side. You’ll save about $5 per bottle.

7. HNL sells pineapples airside if you need to purchase them at a ridiculous price.

8. Leis purchased from the lei stands outside the terminals are NOT approved for transport to the Mainland. If you buy one, you’ll have to ditch it. The only ag-approved leis are sold inside the terminals.