Most people will agree that in places, the island of Maui feels like paradise. Thanks to its location and topography, it has everything, including all kinds of micro-climates. The experience you have all depends on the time of day and what part of the island you’re on. The same can be said about the lines at Maui’s main airport, Kahului Airport (OGG).

Local KHON2 News just did a story titled: Maui airport overwhelmed with lines. The reason is not surprising because popular vacation destinations all over the world are having similar problems. Airlines are taking advantage of the pent-up demand for travel so they’re adding more flights and larger aircraft, even though the airlines themselves and the airports are short-staffed.

Here’s how to avoid the long lines at Kahului Airport

1. Fly off-peak
According to an interview in USA Today, Airport District Manager Marvin Moniz says, “peak period of the day is typically from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. because there are a few more flights that were inserted into that timeframe.” He also says that Saturdays and Sundays are even busier as airlines have added even more flights.

Alaska Airlines says peak times fall within a longer time frame as they state on their website: “For flights departing Maui between 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, please plan to arrive at the airport at least 3 hours prior to departure if checking bags, and 2 hours prior to departure if you just have carry-on.”

So you really want to either take an early morning flight or an evening flight to avoid the long lines.

2. Don’t check a bag
Above, Alaska Airlines suggests that if you’re not checking a bag, you can show up an hour later than if you are. If you subscribe to my free travel newsletter, then you know I’ve been preaching carry-on only for years, if not decades. But if you do have to check a bag, here is my advice for avoiding having the airlines lose your bag.

3. Show up early
Even if you’re not checking a bag, you need to show up early because these days, planes are going out almost 100% full. Therefore, if you miss your flight, there’s nowhere for the airline to put you so you could be stuck for days and on your own dime.

Hawaiian Airlines, which flies to Maui more than any other airline, advises their customers: “To North America cities: Please arrive 3 hours prior to departure. To Oahu, Kauai, Hawaii Island: Please arrive 2 hours prior to departure.”

4. Get TSA PreCheck
Most of the long lines at OGG are because of TSA. KHON2 reports: “The general TSA line at Kahului airport is [so] long there is airport staff handing out water. You can see just how long the outdoor line stretches down the road. TSA said the long lines are simply because Kahului airport can’t handle the influx of travelers.”

Tip: Download the MY TSA app as they show current and historic TSA checkpoint wait times. As you can see in the screenshot below, between 12pm and 2pm on weekends, the wait is over 60 minutes for the general TSA lines. But the TSA PreCheck line the wait is less than 5 minutes!

You can’t get TSA PreCheck right away so don’t wait until the last minute as you need to be approved. But it only takes three to five days (though some applications can take up to 60 days). It’s a lot quicker than getting Global Entry or Nexus, which both include TSA Pre.


5. Travel with seniors or young children
Traveling with your aging parents and little kids does have its perks at certain airports and OGG is one of them. According to KHON2: “Airport staff is escorting kupuna [grandparent, ancestor, and/or honored elder] and those traveling with young children to the front of the line so they don’t have to stand in the sun.”

So there you have it! Traveling to Maui even in the busy summer can still be paradise as long as you’re prepared. Travel off-peak, don’t check a bag and get TSA PreCheck.

8 Comments On "Maui is Paradise But Their Airport Isn’t - Here’s How to Avoid the Chaos at Kahului Airport"
  1. william farnam|

    The real problem is in going to the wrong airport. Next time fly a small shuttle to Kampala on the West side. Airport doesn’t even have doors on it. It’s open to the air with views of whales from the checkin desk. 10 min ride max to resorts. No waiting no hassle!!!

  2. william farnam|

    The name is Kapalua

  3. Jim David|

    Kapalua (JHM) does not work for mainland flights, only if you are flying interisland. The plane is a single engine, nine passenger Cessna turboprop an the price is about double Southwest from OGG.

  4. Ralph|

    Or better yet, as a local here, just don’t come.

  5. Anonymous|

    Your Island wouldn’t survive without tourism ?

  6. Vic|

    Just a taught maybe need to separate or make a gate for all passengers going to the mainland and international flights to another gate and TSA for all passengers going to Oahu and inter island flights so it’s not so crowded and waiting longer…

  7. PCLai|

    The perk for young kid is at the mercy of the airport staff. Last September we with small kid were late for the flight. I specifically asked the airport staffs to help but they were not willing to help move us to the front of the line. I spoke to airline staffs but was told this airport is very stringent and would not allow them to help. So this airport is very notorious, not friendly at all, even to small kids.

  8. Tracy Mcfadden|

    Hi Ralph! Obviously you are an idiot and under educated. Your comment is so rude that I’m speechless ?. I live in the real world where traveling and tourism is really special. Traveling around the world has been incredible . Do you live in a shack? The world lives by lovely people who are interested in visiting Maui! It’s just another island vacation spot. LOSER

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