Mandatory quarantine for interisland travel ends June 16; Ige encourages residents to visit neighbor islands

  • IGE

Gov. David Ige said Monday he hopes his decision to end on June 16 the 14-day mandatory quarantine currently in effect for interisland travelers will help restart the kamaaina tourism economy.

“We certainly are working with the entire hospitality industry,” Ige said during an afternoon media conference at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu. “… We are working with hotels. We have been talking with the airlines, the entire visitor industry, to see if we can focus on encouraging members in our community to travel interisland and enjoy what we often take for granted.

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“You know, many of us don’t take in the attractions that all of the visitors from around the world come to the islands to experience.”

Ige also encouraged those who have missed family and friends on other islands to reconnect once the interisland quarantine, which was put in place to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, is lifted.

The state Department of Transportation will require thermal screening at the airport for interisland passengers. It will also require travelers to fill out a new form that will ask for health-related information to assist the state in tracking and responding to new COVID-19 cases.

Those who have a temperature above 100.4 degrees or refuse to complete the mandatory form may be prohibited from flying.

The 14-day quarantine for arriving visitors from outside Hawaii remains in effect until at least June 30.

The quarantine has slowed to a trickle the arrival of passengers from out of state. About a year ago, about 30,000 air passengers arrived in Hawaii daily. On Saturday, there were 1,469 out-of-state arrivals, including 391 visitors.

Ige said an announcement about mainland and international travel will be coming next week. He previously indicated, however, he will extend the 14-day quarantine for out-of-state arrivals beyond June 30.

“We are driving toward having a target date where we can invite more of our guests (to join) us here in the islands,” he said. “But we want to be mindful of the notion that other communities have reopened their economies too quickly and have seen second spikes and increasing outbreaks.”

Ige noted that many of the state’s largest visitor markets, such as California, “still have large numbers of cases that are a cause for concern.”

For out-state travel, Ige said Hawaii is focused on opening up to areas that have similarly low numbers of the coronavirus and similar levels of screening and contact tracing.

As of Monday, the state has had 652 reported cases of COVID-19. No new case was reported Monday.

Peter Ingram, president and CEO of Hawaiian Airlines, said he wants “to make sure we welcome you back” and wants travelers to be “comfortable getting on an airplane (and) comfortable traveling with confidence.”

Ingram said the airline has new cleaning and boarding procedures to prevent the spread of the virus. It is also limiting the number of passengers on each plane so people don’t sit so close to each other.

All passengers and Hawaiian Airlines employees are required to wear masks, he said.

Ingram said the airline is operating five round trips a day between Honolulu and four neighbor island airports — Hilo, Kona, Maui and Kauai — a total of 40 flights daily.

“Those flights that are serving the needs of essential travelers have a lot of seats available on them already,” Ingram said. “On a typical day, we’ll run with an average of 20% to 30% load factor. So some of the additional demand can be accommodated … already.”

Ingram said Hawaiian operated an average of 180 interisland flights daily prior to the pandemic.

“I don’t think we’ll get up near that very soon, because there’s some demand that’s just not going to be there. The connections off our long-haul flights are not going to be there in the numbers right now,” he said. “And there’s still going to be some anxiety for people around traveling. And, certainly, people’s pocketbooks are hurting a little bit.

“So we’re going to start filling up the seats we have, expand as we need to — and rest assured, we’ve got the aircraft (and) we’ve got the crews ready to scale up and meet the demand that’s out there.”

Ingram said Hawaiian “can’t afford to go without 90% of our revenue for a long time and maintain the same cost structure.”

Hawaiian received a share of a $50 billion federal bailout under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act — half in loans and the other half for payroll support.

Ingram said the money “came with some very important requirements through Sept. 30 of this year — that we would keep our employment levels intact, and we wouldn’t involuntarily release anyone from our payrolls.”

The airline CEO said he’s hoping once quarantines are lifted, demand for air travel increases and the company won’t need to resort to the employee layoffs currently plaguing the rest of Hawaii’s visitor industry.

“It really will depend, ultimately, how much demand for travel there is,” Ingram said. “And that’s something that has been obscured to us over the last little while because, with the quarantine, we don’t see any demand.

“We think as the quarantines begin to lift, we will see some demand. And then, we’ll have to make sure that our business is appropriately sized for the demand that we’re ultimately serving.”

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The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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