A new policy authorizing the nighttime closure of areas at Honolulu Airport has drastically reduced the number of homeless people sleeping there, Hawaii transportation officials said.
The policy was launched March 13 to discourage homeless people from camping at the airport, Hawaii News Now reported. Between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. each day, overseas airport lobbies and baggage claim areas are closed.
A few dozen homeless people were told to leave the airport the first couple of nights, according to Hawaii Department of Transportation spokesman Tim Sakahara. He said the number now is just a handful being told to leave each night.
Regular travelers, who also cannot stay in the lobbies overnight, are being sent to a holding area of Lobby 5. This is where boarding passes and itineraries are checked before travelers proceed to Transportation Security Administration checkpoints.
Craig Fujii, a traveler from Waipahu, spent nearly two hours in the holding area last week before flying to Los Angeles. He said he would have preferred waiting in an open area.
"I can’t help but feel for the visitors that came to Hawaii. They’re being taken into this grimy little room to wait until agents show up," Fujii said.
Sakahara said that was the first complaint received. He said the holding area has been well received by travelers and that they have access to free coffee, tea and water.
"If they don’t want to stay in the staging areas, they don’t have to," Sakahara said. "They can come back out, they can go to a hotel, they can go home, they can go anywhere they want, essentially, and come back when their flight leaves later on that morning."
The state might move the holding area to an open waiting area, he said.
Meanwhile, between 30 and 50 passengers are using the holding area overnight, according to officials.