Kona International Airport at Keahole

Kona International Airport at Keahole is located on the western coast of the Island of Hawaii, approximately 10 miles from the town of Kailua Kona.

The Hawaii Legislature appropriated $80,000 for plans for a new airport at Keahole through Act 195, SLH 1965.  In 1968, the Legislature appropriated $4.686 million for land acquisition and construction of a new airport with runway, apron, terminal buildings and other related improvements at Keahole through Act 40, SLH 1968.

Ceremonial charges of dynamite signaled the start of work for the new Keahole Airport in West Hawaii on May 27, 1969. The new airport would replace Kailua-Kona Airport and be located 7.5 miles north of the old airport. The airport was expected to be in operation by July 1970 for interisland flights and was master planned for eventual expansion to handle trans-Pacific flights.

The initial facilities at Keahole included a 6,500 foot runway and parallel taxiway, high intensity lights, a control tower and 10 aircraft parking positions, terminal buildings and motor vehicle parking areas.

Initial contracts were awarded for the grading and draining of the new Keahole terminal building site, aircraft apron, vehicular parking lot and airport access road at a cost of $1,248,808, and grading and draining of runway and taxiways and installation of concrete encased underground ducts at a cost of $3,176,090.

In 1969 the Legislature appropriated $14.3 million for the construction of a maintenance area, maintenance buildings, fire and rescue equipment building and other improvements through Act 155, SLH 1969.  On November 7, 1969 Governor’s Executive Order No. 2472 set aside 4044.461 acres for an addition to Keahole Airport.  On June 5, 1970 a contract was awarded for the construction of a new FAA control tower at a cost of $174,998.

Keahole Airport was dedicated on July 1, 1970.  The shift from the old airport to the new was accomplished without interruption of service.

The new airport had a 6,500-foot runway, a parallel taxiway, one high-speed turnoff, wide aprons and ample parking area. The terminal consisted of a cluster of high-beam Polynesian-style buildings topped with shake roofs.

It was the first airport ever built for the State of Hawaii with a consultant firm furnishing the total project management.  The Bechtel Corporation provided a complete package of services, including preliminary engineering, detailed design, drawings and specifications, assistance in contract award, construction inspection and other services usually performed by State employees.

The design services for architectural and civil engineering work were provided under the basic Bechtel contract by local architects and engineers under subcontract to the Bechtel Corporation. This arrangement enabled the State to sidestep staffing problems and meet pressing deadlines posed by booming tourist travel and the newest developments in air technology.

The airport was constructed within 13 months after the first 1,000-pound dynamite charge exploded on the lava beds on May 27, 1969.  Crews worked 12-hour shifts, six days a week, to accomplish this feat.

The FAA’s Control Tower at Keahole was dedicated on April 21, 1970 and became fully operative on May 1.

General Lyman Field was designated as the South Hawaii District and the former Hawaii District Airport Manager became the South Hawaii District Superintendent on October 1, 1970.

On May 6, 1971 Governor John A. Burns accepted the FAA’s Beautification Award for Keahole Airport.  The award praised the airport as “a delightful melding of ancient with modern,” citing its “unique cluster of terminal structures resembling a Hawaiian village.”

In 1971 the FAA began to implement the Airport and Airways Development Act of 1970 under a plan entitled the Airport Certification Program.  Under this program, every airport serving air carriers certified by the Civil Aeronautics Board was required to maintain certificates from the FAA to remain in operation.  This program imposed an entirely new system of inspections, record-keeping and reporting on airports and will require additional funds and personnel to meet its stringent requirements.

The FAA also published a “Notice of Proposed Rule-Making on Aviation Security” and began to implement an airport security system. This new program meant new obligations for the Airports Division and required equipment expenditures and personnel increases. Under the requirements of the Airport Certification Program, an Airports Division Procedures Manual was produced in draft form and manuals were also drafted for each airport serving CAB-certified carriers.

After a lapse of several years, the FAA revived a system of inspections under its Compliance Program, and inspected all airports within the State.  Hawaii’s airports passed inspection in every important respect, and corrective measures were initiated to correct some minor instances of non-compliance, such as lack of adequate clear zones.

A quick-response rescue vehicle was ordered for Keahole Airport in June 1972.  The vehicle could transport the fire chief, break-in tools and fire suppressant chemicals to a crash within three to four minutes, while slower equipment was still on the way.  The vehicle carried 500 gallons of water, 55 gallons of foam concentrate and 500 pounds of dry chemical.

Three positions were authorized and filled to form a professional crash/fire rescue cadre.

By the end of Fiscal Year 1975 Keahole Airport consisted of a Crash Fire Section, Visitor Information Section, Electrical Unit, General Maintenance Unit and a Security Section.  The FAA Control Tower operated from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Air operations increased 43 percent during Fiscal Year 1977.

Bids were opened for the automobile parking facilities concession on May 4, 1979. Only one bid was received from APCOA, Inc.  The 10-year contract was awarded on the basis of the minimum annual guarantee payment totaling $352,000 or a percentage of gross receipts, whichever is greater.  Paid parking went into effect at Keahole Airport on March 1, 1980.  Better and more efficient parking was expected with the change in policy.

Groundbreaking ceremonies were held for the new crash fire building on March 17, 1980.

  • Improvements on the midfield or Delta Taxiway were completed in 1980. This taxiway improved the efficiency of flight operations by linking the runway with the terminal area, and enhanced airport safety by providing ready access for crash/fire rescue crews to the runway.
  • The new Crash/Fire Rescue Station was dedicated on February 27, 1981.  The station provided a training area, a housing unit for 16 crash/fire crew members and a garage area for four rescue vehicles.  The unique feature of the station was the installation of the first solar heating unit.  Construction began in March 1980. Cost: $727,765.
  • Act 1, Special Session 1, 1981, appropriated $2.4 million for terminal improvements; $2 million for airfield improvements; $450,000 to construct T hangars for general aviation; and $500,000 to develop facilities for air cargo.
  • Three Governor’s Executive Orders were signed on August 20, 1981. Governor’s Executive Order No. 3072 cancelled GEO No. 2472.  Governor’s Executive Order No. 3073 cancelled GEO No. 2946. Governor’s Executive Order No. 3074 set aside 4204.1 acres of land for an airport, an energy research project and their associate purposes to be designated as Keahole Airport under the control and management of the Airports Division, Hawaii State Department of Transportation.
  • Act 264, SLH 1982, appropriated $2 million to expand aircraft apron and landscaping; $450,000 to construct T-hangars and aircraft parking apron; $500,000 to develop facilities for air cargo including utility systems, roadways, parking, terminal, etc.
  • Act 301, SLH, 1983, appropriated $2.8 million for airport improvements; $2.485 million for airfield improvements.
  • In Fiscal Year 1983 plans were being drawn for the expansion of Keahole Airport.  Included in the design were a new administration building, storage facility, gift shop and restaurant.
    Wind socks were installed to help pilots determine wind direction.
  • United Airlines commenced direct daily service from the Mainland to Keahole Airport on September 7, 1983.  This was the first direct Mainland flight to arrive at Keahole and signified the emergence of the Kona and Kohala areas on the Big Island as a growing destination resort district.
  • In Fiscal Year 1984 plans were underway to initiate $1 million of improvements to the North ramp apron and taxiway.  The project included grading, paving, landscaping and the installation of utilities to complete Keahole’s planned expansion.
  • Site work began on November 28, 1983 to realign portions of the general use and hangar access roads. The project includes grading, paving, landscaping and the installation of underground utilities.  Completed: November 1985. Cost: $1.16 million.
  • Act 285, SLH 1984, appropriated $2.8 million to construction modifications to concession area, offices, emergency generation and duct lines, roads and parking, and maintenance baseyard.
  • Improvements to the South ramp apron and taxiway began June 18, 1984. Cost: $1.42
  • Act 300, SLH 1985, appropriated $9.2 million to design and construction airport improvements.
  • For its unique functional building design being well-suited to the climate and culture of Hawaii, the Keahole Airport was awarded the first Hawaiian Architectural Arts Award by the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts in 1985.
  • The expanded apron, taxiways, road and parking for general aviation and helicopters on the North ramp were completed in December 1986. Cost: $1.1 million.
  • Act 216, SLH 1987, appropriated $12.2 million for airport improvements; $900,000 for airfield improvements and $250,000 to design and construct a Civil Air Patrol hangar.

The late 1980s were very busy at Keahole Airport as it was prepared to handle increased passenger traffic due to the boom in tourism to West Hawaii.  Many in the community expressed the desire for a second runway at Keahole Airport to accommodate fully loaded direct flights from the Mainland.  The state preferred, instead, to extend the single runway due to cost, safety, federal fund participation, convenience, and aircraft capacity.

Planning for improvements to the Terminal were underway.  Department forecasts showed that passenger traffic would more than double by 1995 with an estimated 3.1 million passengers to be using the facility by 1995.

Design of the Terminal expansion was expected to get underway in 1988 including expansion of the terminal by three gates, increasing parking, and lengthening the runway from 6,500-feet to 9,500 feet.  Construction was expected to begin in 1989 at a cost of $71 million.

The North aircraft apron was extended to accommodate more parking for general aviation aircraft including the fast expanding helicopter operations.  Cost was $1.1 million.

Design was underway to further expand the south apron for cargo, postal service, Civil Air Patrol and other smaller activities.  In addition, six acre lease lots for ground transportation firms were under design.  The estimated construction cost was $5.2 million.

Paved shoulders for the runway and taxiway grading of the ends of the runway and installation of distance remaining markers were completed in September 1987. Cost: $2.3 million.

In December 1987 Master Plan work was completed and focused on the development of the airport for expanded overseas activity. Design began for expansion of the terminal by three gates to handle wide body overseas aircraft, increased parking facilities and to lengthen the runway from 6,500 feet to 9,500 feet.

Noise maps were being developed which described levels of disturbance by aircraft on areas adjacent to Keahole Airport.   Federal standards for noise measurement and description are prescribed in Federal Aviation Regulation Part 150 and used to create the noise maps and establish guidelines for appropriate land use compatible with airport activities.

Known as Part 150 Studies, the projects involved public information meetings to discuss findings and alternative remedial actions that could be taken to reduce noise conflicts.  In addition to providing relief for neighboring communities, the program will assist in assuring that the long-range airport system will meet the needs of the state and local public served by each airport. State and County planners, as well as affected property owners, will have a basis for assessing the noise impact and deciding the appropriate land use around airports.

In addition, the state was updating the Statewide Airport System Master Plan which forecasted movements of passengers and cargo by air into and throughout the State.

The detailed master plan for Keahole Airport was being revised to reflect the new forecasts and depict future improvements.

Design work for the Col. Ellison Onizuka Memorial at Keahole Airport was started with a $75,000 appropriation from the Legislature.  Construction was expected to start in 1989 with completion a year later.

Act 390, SLH 1988, appropriated $12.2 million for airport improvements and $250,000 for design and construction of a CAP hangar.

Additions to the terminal building were completed in August 1988. Cost: $900,000.  Construction began to expand the South Ramp and ground transportation lease lots.

The construction development plan for the new overseas terminal building and extension of the runway was completed in May 1989.  The plan focused on developing Keahole for expanded overseas activity by extending the existing 6,500 foot runway to 11,000 feet and constructing terminal facilities that would accommodate wide body overseas aircraft.

Governor’s Executive Order No. 3417 dated May 12, 1989 withdrew three acres of land from Keahole Airport in exchange with the U.S. Postal Service.

Act 316, SLH 1989, appropriated $35.4 million for design and construction of improvements to facilities; and $83.7 million for design and construction improvements the airfield.

On November 3, 1989 a groundbreaking ceremony was held for the Astronaut Ellison S. Onizuka Space Center at Keahole Airport.  The Space Center was completed in December 1990. It is located between the Aloha and Hawaiian Airlines Terminals.  Cost: $1.3 million.  The Space Center was dedicated on July 19, 1991. The exterior of the 50-foot high, 4,000 square foot, triangular-shaped building was built by the HDOT.  The center features a space travel simulator, memorabilia, Onizuka’s personal belongings, and videotapes and models of space shuttle missions.  The Onizuka Memorial Committee commissioned the T. Sakow Design Group, a museum consulting firm in New Jersey, to design the interior display of the space center.

Highlights of the 1990s:

  • Act 299, SLH 1990, appropriated $46.4 million for design and construction of facilities; and $83.3 million for design and construction of runway improvements.
  • Act 300, SLH 1990, appropriated $100,000 for equipment for the Ellison Onizuka Space Center.
  • Construction to expand the South Ramp and ground transportation lease lots was completed in August 1990.  The project includes adding more parking and enlarging the cargo apron.  The 12 existing U-drive lots were enlarged and six new lots were added on the South Ramp. Cost: $6.1 million.
  • New signage and graphics were installed in November 1990 to help people find their way around the airport.  Cost: $282,000.
  • Also in 1990, four lei stands, a gift shop and a Visitor Information display area were constructed.
  • Cargo building was turned into office and storage space for airport tenants and a new mechanical baggage claim device at Aloha Airlines was installed.
  • Act 296, SLH 1991, appropriated $60 million for design and construction of improvements; and $26 million for airfield improvements.
  • Act 317, SLH 1991, appropriated $275,000 for the construction and equipment for the Ellison Onizuka Space Center.
  • A new Civil Air Patrol hangar was dedicated on March 13, 1992.  Its construction included provisions for future offices. Cost: $220,000.
  • Renovations to two of the existing airport buildings in March 1992 added four lei stands, a gift shop and a Visitor Information display area to the terminal.  Cost: $462,000.
  • A new mechanical baggage delivery system was installed in May 1992 with additional baggage handling space to better serve customers.  Cost: $1.3 million.
  • A new pre-fabricated steel cargo building was completed in June 1992 doubling cargo capacity by providing 16,000 square feet of space and 12,000 square feet of uncovered equipment storage space.  Cost: $1.5 million.
  • Act 300, SLH 1992, appropriated $85 million for design and construction of airport facilities and $72 million for design and construction of airfield improvements.
    A new building next to the existing U-drive rental building was constructed in July 1992 to provide additional ready vehicle parking spaces and roadway in front of the new U-drive complex for customer pick up.
  • Renovated ground transportation facilities were completed in September 1992, doubling the size of the U-drive operator booths and providing 40 percent more space in the public waiting area.  Ramps and lowered counters provide easier access for the disabled and about 50 percent more parking spaces for rental vehicles. Cost: $1.5 million.
  • The original Aloha Airlines’ cargo building was renovated in August 1992 to include office and storage space.  New baggage service (lost and found) offices and a belt baggage claim system were added to the existing claim area.
  • A temporary commuter terminal consisting of two 1,500 square foot trailers was put into use in August 1992, providing offices, customer service counters and a public waiting area.  The temporary facility will be replaced when the new general aviation area is completed.  Cost: $1.3 million.
  • Runway 17-35 was extended to 11,000 feet to allow fully loaded wide-body aircraft to take off fully loaded.  The runway was dedicated on February 4, 1993.  Security fencing was installed on the vehicular access road in March 1993.  Cost: $1.1 million.
  • Act 53, SLH 1993, changed the name of Keahole Airport to Keahole-Kona International Airport effective April 26, 1993.
  • Act 289, SLH 1993, appropriated $1.3 million for construction of airport improvements.
  • Grading for airport improvement projects was completed in June 1993.  Cost: $6.8 million.
  • Construction of new airport offices and communication systems was completed in June 1993. Cost: $3.5 million.
  • Hawaiian Airlines’ baggage claim area was mechanized in August 1993.  Cost: $553,000.

The year 1994 was a big year for Keahole Airport.  It marked the start of direct wide-body service from the Mainland to Kona, without having to stop over in Honolulu for fuel. Runway 17-35 was dedicated on February 4, 1994.  It extended the runway from 6,500 feet to 11,000 feet which will allow fully loaded wide body aircraft to take off from the airport.  It is the longest Neighbor Island runway. Cost:  $15.8 million.  Ten days later a Cargolus B-747 was the first long-range flight to Keahole.  It arrived from Europe carrying equipment for the filming of a movie.  Scheduled direct Mainland wide-body service into and out of Keahole began by United Airlines in March. United Airlines boosted its direct San Francisco-Kona service carrier from a 285-seat DC-10 to a 747 on March 2, 1994, adding as many as 30,660 passengers a year.

Pleasant Hawaiian Holidays negotiated with American Trans Air to begin direct flights into Keahole International Airport from San Francisco on Sundays beginning July 14, 1994 through September 11, 1994 using L-1011s.  Pleasant Hawaiian began flights to Keahole from Los Angles using ATA L-1011s on Thursdays through September 8.

By the end of the year, Canada 3000 began weekly service between Vancouver and Kona every Wednesday through April 5, 1995.

Other highlights:

  • Act 252, SLH 1994, appropriated $44 million for design and construction of airport improvements.
  • Eight new loading bridges were installed in September 1994.  Cost: $3.2 million.
  • A new fire training pit was constructed for drills by the Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting staff in September 1994.  Cost: $3.2 million.
  • New utility lines were installed on Keahole Airport Road N North in November 1994. Cost: $1.8 million.
  • Work began on December 5, 1994 on the Terminal Improvements, Phase I, at Keahole to expand the gate/hold areas and construct a baggage claim unit at Terminal 1.  Work also began at Keahole to widen the peripheral road from three to five lanes, expand the parking lot by 150 stalls, and provide new landscaping at the north and south ends of the parking lots.
  • A new airport sign and landscaping at the airport entrance were completed in October 1995. Cost: $253,206.
  • A groundbreaking ceremony was held for the extension of the runway at Keahole on November 25, 1995.
  • Terminal improvements were competed in December 1995.  Cost: $8.7 million.

A new era in the airport history began with the announcement in late 1995 that Japan Airlines would like to begin direct flights into Kona.  These would be international flights and Kona had no Federal Inspection Services, so a program was begun to accommodate and welcome Japanese visitors.

Construction of a $2.6 million Federal Inspection Services Facility began in December 1995.  It included a 12,000 square foot building for baggage claim and immigration and a 4,000 square foot building for Customs and Agriculture inspection.  An Interim Federal Inspection Service Facility opened in March 1996.

Keahole-Kona received its first international flight from Japan on June 2, 1996. Federal inspectors were flown in from Honolulu for the twice-weekly flights. In August 1997 four permanent federal inspectors and one supervisory position were established at Keahole, thereby reducing the need for federal inspection coverage from HNL.

Other highlights:

  • A contract was awarded for $353,700 in April 1996 to replace the stationary baggage claim area with an automatic belt conveyor system.  The project was completed in August 1996.
  • Construction of a Peripheral Road and parking was completed in May 1996.  The project included widening from three to five lanes on the road, expansion of the parking lot by 150 stalls, new landscaping on the north and south ends of the parking lots and electrical distribution feeders along the road.  Cost:  $6.1 million.
  • On June 6, United Airlines re-entered the Los Angeles-Kona market with a 188-seat 757 aircraft.
  • Act 287, SLH 1996, appropriated $7.7 million for construction improvements to ticket counters and baggage areas; and $1.5 million for plans, land acquisition, design and construction of a water transmission pipeline, reservoir and other work in the vicinity of Hina Lani Drive.
  • Act 122, SLH 1997, renamed Keahole-Kona Airport to Kona International Airport at Keahole, Hawaii.
  • Act 328, SLH 1997, appropriated $1.6 million for design and construction of an apron area for itinerant aircraft; $6.8 million for design and construction of additional ground transportation and public parking facilities; $130,000 for design of Road P as a second access into the airport; $3.8 million for design and construction of a non-potable water system; $33 million to design and construct a two-level overseas domestic and international arrival terminal; $5.3 million to design and construct a heliport with 12 helipads; $6.9 million to design and construct general aviation site preparation; $1.9 million to design and construct paving of Ramp K near heliport and GA area; $8 million to design and construct an air traffic control tower; $1.65 million to design and construct a postal facility site; $16.3 million to construct a new wastewater treatment plant; $1.9 million to design and construct a general aviation fuel storage system; $1.9 million to design and construct fuel farm site preparation; $100,000 to design and construct an air monitoring system; and $6.4 million to design and construct an apron for overseas aircraft parking.
  • Improvements to the electrical, communications and water systems were made in October 1997.   Cost: $3.4 million.
  • In 1997, work began on Phase II of the Terminal improvements.  The work included apron lighting, security improvements and enlargement of the passenger waiting area. These improvements were completed in June 1998.
  • Keahole-Kona International Airport was renamed Kona International Airport at Keahole on June 16, 1997 by the Hawaii State Legislature.
  • The theme for cultural emphasis for Kona International is one based on King Kamehameha I.
    Act 116, SLH 1998, appropriated $1.6 million for design and construction of an apron area for itinerant aircraft; $7.5 million for design and construction of additional ground transportation and public parking facilities; $130,000 for design of Road P as a second access into the airport; $3.8 million for design and construction of a non-potable water system; $35.6 million to design and construct a two-level overseas domestic and international arrival terminal; $5.3 million to design and construct a heliport with 12 helipads; $6.9 million to design and construct general aviation site preparation; $1.9 million to design and construct paving of Ramp K near heliport and GA area; $16.3 million to construct a new wastewater treatment plant; $1.9 million to design and construct a general aviation fuel storage system; $1.9 million to design and construct fuel farm site preparation; $100,000 to design and construct an air monitoring system; and $6.4 million to design and construct an apron for overseas aircraft parking at new overseas terminal.
  • A service road was constructed for Road N in August 1998.  Cost: $5.2 million.
  • Terminal improvements to provide for apron lighting, security improvements and enlargement of the passenger waiting area were completed in September 1998.  Cost: $6.9 million.
  • Utility upgrades were made to the electrical, communication and water system in September 1998.  Cost: $2.8 million.
  • United Parcel Service began daily direct service from Kona to the Mainland in October 1998 using Boeing 767 cargo planes capable of carrying 65 tons of goods.
  • Hawaiian Airlines began Maui-Kona-Los Angeles Flights on March 12, 1999 using DC-10 30 aircraft.
  • The supersonic Concorde airliner touched down at Kona International Airport on September 15, 1999 following an around-the-world flight.
  • Big Island Air suspended its operations on September 15, 1999 due to a fatal crash of a twin-engine plane carrying nine passengers and one pilot on an island tour.  The plane crashed on Mauna Loa.
  • A shelter for arriving international passengers at the Interim FIS Facility was completed in October 1999.  Cost: $750,000.
  • Royal Airlines began charter flights to Kona on November 4, 1999.

The Master Plan for Kona International Airport at Keahole was completed by the DOT in 1998. The plan built on previous master and development plans and provided a guide for the location, design and construction of facility improvements through the year 2015.  In addition a Noise Compatibility Program document was prepared to address existing and projected noise impacts on the airport environs.

Among the findings were that the single runway was expected to provide sufficient capacity to the year 2015, based on the projected demand for 28 aircraft per hour in 2015.

Recommended Phase I improvements (1998-2003):

  • Waste Water Treatment Plant
  • Fuel Farm Site Preparation
  • GA Fuel Storage System Site Presentation
  • Air Cargo Building III
  • Postal Facility Site Prep
  • Road “P”
  • Road “M” (O`opu Street)
  • Telecommunications System
  • Parking Phase II
  • Itinerant Airline Aircraft Parking
  • Ramp K
  • Overseas Terminal (LST), Apron and Gates
  • Air Traffic Control Tower

Recommended Phase II Improvements (2004-2009)

  • Overseas Terminal
  • Air and Water Quality Monitoring
  • Electrical Distribution and Emergency Generator
  • Flight Kitchen Site Preparation
  • Ground Transportation Lease Lots
  • GA Site Development and Hangars
  • Air tour Terminal
  • Heliport Phase I
  • Ramp L
  • FBO Sewer and Lift Station
  • Road N South (Pao`o Street)
  • Rock Quarry

Recommended Phase III Improvements (2010-2015+)

  • Connect Road L
  • Long Term Parking
  • DOT/DEA Administration Building
  • Keahole to Kawaihae Fuel Corridor


  • Improvements were made to the ticket counters, offices and baggage system in January 2000. Cost: $9 million.
  • Sunquest began Friday flights to Kona from San Jose, California on February 11, 2000, in addition to its existing five weekly flights to Maui and Honolulu.
  • A dedication ceremony was held for Phase III of the Terminal Improvements on April 7, 2000.
  • TWA began daily service between St. Louis and Kona on May 1, 2000 using a Boeing 757.
  • United Airlines added a second daily round trip flight between Los Angeles and Kona on May 4, 2000 using Boeing 757s.
  • Lobby improvements were completed in June 2000.  Cost: $906,000.
  • Aloha Airlines began daytime airfreight service to Oahu, Maui and the Big Island on September 1, 2000.
  • A dedication ceremony was held for new artwork at KOA on November 17, 2000. The artwork was commissioned by the Hawaii Foundation on the Culture and Arts.
  • Act 259, SLH 2001, appropriated $1.5 million for design and construction of parking lot expansion; $952,000 for construction of general aviation fuel site preparation; $1.7 million for paving Ramp K; and $502,000 for construction of an interim Federal Inspection Service improvement.
  • New way finding signs were installed in August 2001.  Cost $852,331.
  • American Airlines took over part of TWA’s routing (as American had bought out TWA) between LAX and Kona on September 5, 2001.  The flight was a daily, nonstop flight.

The terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001 resulted in the Federal Aviation Administration shutting down all U.S. airports for three days.  The aviation system was then incrementally restored as airport and air carriers complied with new safety and security requirements, including heightened passenger security screening.

The attacks had a major financial impact on the aviation industry, accelerating an already deteriorating financial condition for airlines.  Hawaii airports were impacted greatly with a decrease in flights and passengers.

Congress passed the Aviation and Transportation Security Act on November 19, 2001 which established the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).  TSA now oversees all transportation security including airport security checkpoint screening, previously managed by the airlines.

As with many airports, heightened passenger security screening requirement created long lines and extended delays for passengers.  The airport worked with TSA and other agencies to minimize inconvenience to the travelling public.


  • The sewage treatment plant was replaced in March 2002.  The facility will replace the existing undersized wastewater treatment plant and will accommodate existing and projected sewage flow at the airport. It will meet all federal, state and county requirements. Cost $15.9 million.
  • A site was prepared for a new postal facility in April 2002.  Cost: $1.7 million.
  • United Airlines added a second nonstop daily flight between San Francisco and Kona on June 7, 2002 using a 182-seat Boeing 757 on the added route.
  • Act 200, SLH 2003, appropriated $1.5 million for parking lot expansion.
  • The mechanics work was extended in July 2003.  Cost: $144,000.
  • A fuel access road to the lease lots was constructed in October 2003.  Cost: $534,154.
  • The existing general aviation facilities were relocated providing fixed based operator lots and the supporting infrastructure in October 2003.  This project addressed the high demand for general aviation facilities at the airport.  Cost: $10.6 million.
  • Ramp K was constructed to accommodate the increasing operations on the southern portion of the airport in October 2003.  Cost: $2 million.
  • A general aviation fuel storage system was installed in October 2003.  Cost: $18,000.
  • A triturator was constructed in May 2004.  Cost: $58,000.
  • The electrical system was upgraded in December 2004. Cost: $155,000.
  • The FAA granted authority to impose and collect passenger facility charges (PFC) at the airport on October 1, 2004. The PFC revenue was utilized for FAA approved projects.
  • Act 160, SLH 2006, appropriated $110,000 for the purchase of a mobile command vehicle and communication equipment; $4 million for plans and design of terminal modifications; and $3.3 million for construction for security fencing for perimeter road and general aviation lighting.
  • In 2006 work began on the Perimeter Road and fence and general aviation apron lighting project.  The project will increase airport security at the perimeter of airport property in addition to improved visibility in the general aviation area.
  • Act 213, SLH 2007, appropriated $6.5 million for terminal expansion; $7.1 million for parking lot expansion; $1.3 million for construction for storm water permit compliance; $250,000 for program management support; and $1.6 million for an Environmental Impact Statement.
  • Airfield lights and sign replacement project was completed in October 2007.  Cost: $1.4 million.
  • Act 158, SLH 2008, appropriated $6.5 million for terminal expansion; $7.1 million for parking lot expansion; $1.3 million for construction for storm water permit compliance; $250,000 for program management support; $1.6 million for an Environmental Impact Statement; and $300,000 for construction improvements to the existing terminal.

On March 31, 2008 Aloha Airlines, the second oldest airline in Hawaii, abruptly ceased all of its interisland and overseas flights, after declaring bankruptcy several days earlier.

The new South Terminal baggage carousel was completed in December 2009.  Cost: $400,000.

A washrack was installed in December 2009.  Cost: $667,000.

Japan Airlines announced on April 28, 2010 that it would cancel its Narita to Kona route effective October 2010. State officials were seeking another airline to provide direct service from Japan to Kona.

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