(KITV) Hawaii gears up for a return of quarantine-free air travelers


While many businesses gear up for a return of visitors, who don’t have to go through quarantine, not everything is in place to get those air passengers to Hawaii without a hitch.

Some air passengers will touchdown in Hawaii on October 15, without having to undergo the 14 day quarantine. But what remains up in the air, is whether pre-travel testing programs are ready for the return of passengers.

“I have got to ask myself, ‘Am I ready for this? Are you ready for this? And is everyone else ready?” stated Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell.

Many struggling Hawaii businesses may be ready for air travelers to return, but pre-travel testing programs are still ramping up.         

Passengers need a specific type of COVID screening test, taken through 10 approved providers — in order to meet Hawaii’s requirements. 

But not all locations have testing yet available. For example, if you are flying from San Francisco on the first day of flights Oct. 15, and go through CityHealth urgent care, you’ll need to head across the bay. Because testing is only at the Oakland Airport. While the first appointment isn’t until Oct. 24.
Flying out from Portland this week? You’d be hard pressed to find an appointment through AFC Urgent Care Tuesday or Wednesday.

More passengers have been making reservations to the islands, according to Hawaiian Airlines.
“We are seeing some increase in bookings, but we expect it to be a slow and gradual recovery,” said Hawaiian’s Senior Vice President of Marketing Avi Mannis.

Hawaiian is one of the airlines offering pre-travel testing for its passengers. But like others, it’s program hasn’t yet taken off.
“Our first 2 testing locations will be Los Angeles and San Francisco. We expect to have L.A. open on the 16th, and San Francisco the week after. Then we plan to expand to other west coast gateways,” added Mannis.

Some have expressed frustration with the available online options. A few websites don’t give you a travel option on the online form. So if you are healthy, but want the COVID 19 test, it tells you: This test is NOT for you.

In other cases, there is an extremely limited offering of pharmacy appointments. That could force those flying in from somewhere else to drive well out of the west coast city to get the required test, before heading to Hawaii.

Travelers do have the option of ordering kits and testing at home, as long as they have the luxury of additional time to order kits and mail them in after self-testing.

Even with these safeguards in place, leaders know COVID positive visitors will still get through.
“As we open up, we are taking some risk. The pre-travel testing program won’t screen out everyone who is positive. We were told it could filter out about 80% meaning 20% of the passengers could be positive,” stated Caldwell.

Honolulu’s Mayor is looking at the possibility of randomly testing 10% of passengers 4 days after their arrival, to help catch COVID cases that get through.

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