Hawaii Traffic Hard Hit During Covid Crisis

 - April 27, 2020, 1:38 PM
Passenger traffic to Honolulu's Daniel K. Inouye International Airport has seen a precipitous drop amid the Covid-19 crisis and its resulting quarantine regulations. (Photo: Curt Epstein)

This story is part of AIN's continuing coverage of the impact of the coronavirus on aviation.

Amid increasing quarantine violations by visitors to Hawaii during the Covid-19 crisis, the state’s Department of Health has increased its surveillance. On March 26, authorities imposed a mandatory 14-day quarantine period for anyone arriving on the island, yet there have been several arrests and “deportations” after authorities found visitors breaking quarantine, in some cases flagrantly. While the number of daily commercial passenger arrivals to the vacation paradise has dwindled from the usual 30,000 a day to a tiny fraction of that total, officials are now confirming hotel reservations before allowing them to leave the airport. Newly-arrived visitors and residents will also be subject to random calls to make sure they are not violating the quarantine.

On the private aviation side, “We collect Hawaii state agriculture forms from passengers arriving from overseas and send them to airport management,” said Shaen Tarter, president of Hawaii-based FBO chain Air Service Hawaii, adding the airport then shares that information with the state’s health department. “Passengers are then required to go directly to their accommodations and remain there for 14 days unless they leave the state.” Tarter told AIN that flight crews have their temperatures checked upon arrival. 

Tony Marlow, president of aviation operations and business development with Castle & Cooke Aviation, one of three service provider at Honolulu Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, explained that for tech stops and crew changes, the procedures are actually minimally invasive, adding that crew and/or passengers on private aircraft can leave at any time. “So even if in quarantine for an overnight or even a few days, while having to stick to the quarantine restrictions, nothing prohibits departure the next morning or even a day or two later,” he said.

Both FBOs noted that while they continue to field inquiries from operators on the new regulations, their private aviation traffic is much lower than normal, with local aerial tour providers grounded. “It is not enhanced screening that has brought our business to a halt, but the quarantine and entire Covid-19 issue...pretty much like the rest of the world," said Marlow. His facility currently handles aeromedical flights from one of its tenants, and some interisland hopping flights.

Tarter noted some flight schools in the state are still operating, his Honolulu location still provides fueling for some commercial airlines, and its hangars there still have many aircraft, but “if it weren’t for our commitment to our employees and clients, it would be difficult to make a business case to stay open at our neighbor island locations.”