How Early To Arrive At Honolulu Airport in Oahu, Hawaii

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Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (also known as Honolulu Airport) is the main airport serving the island of Oahu, Hawaii. The airport consists of three terminals: Terminal 1, Terminal 2, and Terminal 3.

Given this, I recommend arriving at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (Honolulu Airport) at least 2 hours before a domestic flight and at least 3 hours before an international flight.

However, you’ll also want to consider personal circumstances that may influence you to arrive at the airport even earlier. These include; travelling with young children, how you are going to travel to the airport, what time you’re flying etc.

What Time Should You Arrive at Honolulu Airport?

The size of Oahu means that the island has just one airport; Daniel K. Inouye International Airport. However, this airport serves millions of passengers annually.

As such I typically recommend arriving at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport at least two hours before departure for domestic flights (flights within the US) and at least three hours before departure for international flights (flights outside of the US).

This should provide you with enough time to:

  • Arrive at the airport
  • Check-in for your flight
  • Drop your bags
  • Go through security
  • Make it to your gate – prior to / in time for boarding

In our opinion, it’s always better to arrive at the airport a little early and have some extra time browsing the stores or grabbing a bite to eat rather than arriving late, feeling rushed and running the risk of missing your flight.

Why Do You Need Longer For International Flights?

It’s often recommended that when travelling to international destinations (outside the US) you arrive at Honolulu Airport at least 3 hours before the flight departs.

This is to allow for extra time to check visas, entry requirements, immigration control and clear customs.

International flights also often have a longer boarding period (starting earlier) to allow for all passengers to board the aircraft in ample time before the scheduled departure.

How long it takes to fly to Hawaii will depend on where you’re travelling from and subsequently whether you can fly direct. For example, flights from the West Coast are typically 5.5 to 7.5 hours. While flights from the East Coast can be as much as 12 hours.

How Are You Getting to Honolulu Airport?

When deciding on the ideal time to arrive at Honolulu Airport you’ll also want to consider how you’re travelling there. Congestion around Honolulu is common, especially during peak travel times.

As such it’s important to both consider the distance and the traffic conditions. As such, I recommend using Google Maps to evaluate the distance and projected travel time to the airport according to your mode of transport.

Keep in mind that if you check Google Maps on a Sunday at 1:00pm, then the travel time may be very different to the reality you face if you’re actually trying to complete the journey at 7:00am on a Monday.

Parking at Honolulu Airport

If you’re choosing to drive around Oahu and park your vehicle at Honolulu Airport, then I recommend allowing an additional 30 minutes for parking and commuting to the terminal.

Returning a Rental Car

If you’ve opted for a rental car instead of rideshare while in Oahu then it’s likely you’ll be returning the car to Honolulu Airport.

In this case, I recommend arriving at the airport with an additional 30 minutes to an hour, since you may be required to wait in line and complete some paperwork before returning your vehicle.

You don’t need to rent a car in Oahu. However, it can make exploring outside of Waikiki significantly easier.

That being said, the cost of rental cars within Hawaii has increased significantly in recent years. As such a rental car will likely increase the cost of your Hawaii vacation.

The Time of Year

How busy Honolulu Airport is will often vary significantly according to the season and major holidays. This can impact waiting times across all aspects of the airport experience.

National holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, the Fourth of July, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Spring Break can generate high travel demand. As such if your travel coincides with these periods, then it might be wise to arrive at the airport an hour earlier than usual.

Check-In For Your Flight

The majority of airlines now allow you to check in for your flight using either the mobile application or web application up to 24 hours before departure. Checking in using this service should provide you with a digital boarding pass and therefore only require you to use the bag drop service (if applicable).

However, if you’re unable to check in for your flight before arriving at the airport then you’ll want to make sure you arrive at the airport with enough time to do so.

The majority of airlines provide both self-service check-in kiosks and check-in counters at Honolulu Airport which allow you to complete the check-in process quickly and easily.

However, keep in mind that airlines will close the check-in gates before the flight departs (exact times vary, however, it’s usually around 45 minutes – check with your airline). If you have not checked in before the designated time then you will be denied boarding – even if you’re at the departure gate on time for the flight itself.

Dropping Checked Bags

Much like checking in for your flight, another factor you’ll want to consider when determining what time you should arrive at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport is whether or not you’ll need to check your luggage.

The bag drop will close roughly one hour prior to the flight’s departure (exact times vary depending on the airline and destination so be sure to check your flight information) so you’ll want to make sure you arrive at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport early enough to accommodate for this where applicable.

If you do not have any checked bags then once you have your boarding pass (either digital from checking in online or physical from checking in at the airport) you’ll be able to head straight through to security.

TSA Precheck / CLEAR?

If you have TSA Precheck or CLEAR then moving through security at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport should be a significantly quicker and easier process.

As such you should not need to allow for additional time at the airport when compared to infrequent travellers moving through the regular security checkpoints.

Which Honolulu Airport Terminal Do You Need?

Daniel K. Inouye International Airport has three primary terminals: Terminal 1, Terminal 2, and Terminal 3.

Terminal 1

  • Hawaiian Airlines

Terminal 2

  • Air Asia
  • Air Canada
  • Air Japan
  • Air New Zealand
  • Alaska Airlines
  • American Airlines
  • All Nippon Aiways (ANA)
  • Asiana Airlines
  • China Airlines
  • Fiji Airways
  • Jetstar
  • Jin Air
  • Korean Air
  • Omni Air International
  • Delta Air Lines
  • Philippine Airlines
  • Japan Airlines
  • Qantas
  • Southwest Airlines
  • Sun Country Airlines
  • United Airlines
  • WestJet

Terminal 3

  • Mokulele Airlines

Airlines may adjust their designated terminals, so always check your ticket or the airport’s website for the most up-to-date information.


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