Thermal scanners, facial recognition technology to be installed in Hawaii’s airports


  • IGE


  • Photo by Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald A man walks by the Mokupapapa Discovery Center in Hilo on Wednesday. The center has been closed since the coronavirus lockdown began.

Hawaii Attorney General Clare Connors said Wednesday that even though the mandatory 14-day quarantine for interisland passengers will lifted June 16, there will be a “new health-screening process” passengers will have to undergo.

Speaking during Gov. David Ige’s afternoon media conference, Connors called the health screening “our very first step in doing something other than a travel quarantine.” She said it will require interisland travelers to do two things before they go through the Transportation Security Administration checkpoint to board their flight.


“They’re going to complete a new, mandatory state of Hawaii travel and health form, and they are also going to be part of the screening process,” Connors said. “So they’re going to be asked a number of questions, (and) they’re going to have their temperatures checked.

“Based on what happens during that screening process, they may be offered a COVID-19 test.”

She and Ige said anyone with a body temperature higher than 100.4 degrees won’t be allowed to board a plane.

Connors called the screening process “an important moment for testing out a system that is going to be with us” and “an important building block” for the state to refine health and safety procedures prior to lifting the newly extended trans-Pacific travel quarantine and reopening the state to tourism.

Ige, who announced he’s extending until July 31 the 14-day mandatory quarantine for passengers arriving from out of state, said he’s “being very cautious.”

“We are working very hard toward reopening out-of-state travel, but we’re not there yet,” he said. “… There are new virus flare-ups in key mainland markets — including California, where more than 2,000 new cases were reported (Tuesday). Oregon, Arizona and Texas are also reporting their highest number of new daily cases.”

Hawaii Department of Transportation spokesman Tim Sakahara said the Airports Division reached out to seven potential vendors about installing thermal scanning equipment to screen passengers at the Honolulu, Hilo, Kona, Kahului and Lihue airports.

He said five companies “responded and will participate” in a pilot program at the Honolulu airport.

“Companies will begin installing both temperature screening equipment and facial recognition cameras next week,” Sakahara said, and added the pilot program will continue through June 26.

“This will allow us to see how the system works in real time,” he said.

According to Sakahara, DOT will study the capabilities and functionality of the thermal screening and facial recognition technology, the cost and other factors, such as local tech support.

He said the participating companies will submit their bids by June 26, the end of the pilot program, and “we anticipate making a selection within a week.”

Sakahara said once the vendor is selected, the department will implement “a very aggressive game plan” to install the equipment in three phases.

“Phase one will have the thermal scanners installed at gates currently being used for arriving trans-Pacific flights statewide by mid-July,” he said. “Phase two will have the thermal scanners installed at all gates by July 31. And phase three expects to have the facial recognition equipment installed by Dec. 31, the end of this year.”

Ige said the facial recognition technology would be used only in the airport to “allow us to recognize people who are exceeding the 100.4 temperature as they walk through the terminal, and would allow us to meet with them, retake their temperature and redo a more comprehensive health screening so we can provide them the opportunity to be tested, or encourage them to seek health care, as appropriate.”

He said the facial recognition equipment wouldn’t be used to track down suspected quarantine violators.

Sakahara said that in June 2019, about 35,000 air passengers arrived daily in Hawaii. According to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, there were 1,626 arriving passengers Tuesday, 497 of them visitors, with 27 of those visitors arriving in Kona.

“We continue to refine the process to adjust to the changes in current and anticipated conditions,” he said. “We understand the transportation and hospitality sectors are eagerly awaiting the day the traveler quarantine is lifted in full. Until then, we will continue to make the process as efficient and effective as possible.”

On Wednesday, there were four new cases of COVID-19 reported in Hawaii, all on Oahu, bringing the statewide case total to 685, according to the state Department of Health.

“Three of those cases were among children in a family where we had a confirmed case and the other case was identified as a result of community outreach that we’ve been doing in various low-income areas,” said state Health Director Bruce Anderson. According to the DOH, the fourth case was an adult.

“The important thing I’ve seen in the last few weeks is our cases are limited to small clusters of cases, mostly families or close contacts of existing cases, and we have not seen any widespread illness anywhere in the state of Hawaii,” Anderson said.


Of the statewide cases, 622 have been cleared as recovered, including all 81 Big Island cases.

Email John Burnett at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Star-Advertiser's TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email