Review: IASS Lounge Honolulu Airport

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With our flight from Honolulu departing at 2PM, we got to the airport at around 12:40PM. That’s earlier than usual, but Honolulu Pride was going on the day we were there (unbeknownst to us), and the parade route blocked the way to the airport, so we were told to leave extra time.

We arrived at Hawaiian’s check-in area, which was a complete zoo, and isn’t at all logically laid out.

Hawaiian Airlines check-in Honolulu Airport

Hawaiian Airlines check-in Honolulu Airport

There were people in groups everywhere, and it wasn’t clear who was in a line and who wasn’t, etc. On top of that, the people working there were rude. We tried to stop an employee walking by to ask a quick question, and she responded with “I’m busy, I don’t have time to talk to you.” Nice.

Hawaiian Airlines check-in Honolulu Airport

The longest line in the check-in area was at the first class counter, which we wanted to use so we could get our Korean Air SkyPass numbers on our reservation. However, given how long the line was we figured we’d try to add the numbers at the gate instead.

Hawaiian Airlines first class check-in Honolulu Airport

We instead headed to a self-service kiosk, though half of them were out of service.

Hawaiian Airlines check-in kiosk Honolulu Airport

Then when I checked in, it claimed that more than one passenger on the flight had the same last name as me — I highly doubt that.

Hawaiian Airlines check-in kiosk Honolulu Airport

Hawaiian should be embarrassed of the check-in facility at their hub airport. The signage is terrible, the setup isn’t intuitive, and the employees are rude. Ultimately I blame management for not investing enough here, because it’s clear they’re way understaffed.

The TSA checkpoint was just near check-in, and much like in Maui, the Pre-Check lane was the longest one in the building. It was funny seeing so many people come up to the checkpoint and then say “wait, this is the Pre-Check lane?!”

Honolulu Airport TSA Pre-Check lane

The line moved reasonably quickly, though it was about 20 minutes until we were through. Much like in Maui, I don’t really get the logic of how so many passengers are Pre-Check eligible, given that there’s typically a high correlation between business travelers and Pre-Check eligible passengers.

Honolulu Airport TSA Pre-Check lane

We didn’t realize that past security we’d still need to take a shuttle to get to our flight. So we followed the signage towards “Wiki Wiki Shuttle to US Mainland” (that seems like a really long shuttle ride). šŸ˜‰

Heading towards US mainland flights Honolulu Airport

The shuttle area was also a mess and didn’t make much sense, as there were different shuttles going to different places. You had to present the guy at the counter your boarding pass, and then when the bus was there, he’d call out the specific gate numbers for those who should get on. The only problem was that he wasn’t very good at it, and several people were left behind.

Shuttle to US mainland flights Honolulu Airport

Within about five minutes out shuttle showed up.

Shuttle to US mainland flights Honolulu Airport

The shuttle seems to basically drive on the roof of the terminal, which was a first for me. Fortunately the ride didn’t take too long. Once there, we found ourselves in the same part of the terminal that we had used when we transited on the outbound.

Honolulu Airport terminal

Honolulu Airport terminal

While the terminal is outdated, I love that it’s open air, which makes for some great views of planes.

Honolulu Airport ramp

Hawaiian Airlines A330 Honolulu Airport

There are two Priority Pass loungesĀ at Honolulu Airport — The Plumeria Lounge and theĀ IASS Hawaii Lounge. Stupidly I thought Andrew had reviewed the Plumeria Lounge back in June, but I realized he used Hawaiian’s other lounge, so I guess I should have gone there. Oops.

However, I did review theĀ IASS Lounge (since AndrewĀ reviewed the IASS Lounge at Tokyo Narita a while back as well). Most of the lounges at Honolulu Airport are located one level down from the main concourse, by the “Chinese Cultural Garden.”

Stairs to Honolulu Airport lounges

I don’t think I could describe the IASS Lounge more succinctly or accurately than the signage did…

Honolulu Airport lounge signage

Fortunately the garden on the ground floor was beautiful, and it was cool to walk around there.

Honolulu Airport garden

Honolulu Airport garden

Each lounge has a small sign overhead and a sign on the ground by the door, though other than that it can be tough to tell which lounge is which, as they all look the same outside.

IASS Lounge Honolulu Airport

IASS Lounge Honolulu Airport signage

The IASS Lounge has strange hours — it’s open from 7:30AM until 1:30PM, and from 2PM until 6PM. Does anyone know why they close for 30 minutes in the afternoon?! When I saw those hours on the Priority Pass website I figured it was a mistake, but nope.

IASS Lounge Honolulu Airport entrance

At the door there were three Japanese staff members sitting and standing by the reception desk (I’m not sure why they need three people when the lounge basically offers nothing). It was 1:20PM at this point, and they warned us that they’d be closing in 10 minutes. I said that was fine, and that we still wanted to use it.

10 minutes was more than enough to enjoy this lounge…

IASS Lounge Honolulu Airport

The lounge consisted of just one room with… tropical decor.

IASS Lounge Honolulu Airport

IASS Lounge Honolulu Airport

IASS Lounge Honolulu Airport

In terms of the extensive food & drink selection, the lounge had coffee (both hot and iced), Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, pass-o-guava, and orange juice. That was it. There wasn’t a single thing to eat.

IASS Lounge Honolulu Airport coffee machine

IASS Lounge Honolulu Airport

IASS Lounge Honolulu Airport

IASS Lounge Honolulu Airport soft drinks & juice

Then there was a selection of mostly Japanese reading materials.

IASS Lounge Honolulu Airport newspapers & magazines

The lounge has Wi-Fi, which is the only useful feature, since the airport otherwise doesn’t offer Wi-Fi.

IASS Lounge Honolulu Airport Wi-Fi

The lounge doesn’t even have its own bathrooms. Instead you’re directed to go outside and to the left, where there are some public restrooms.

IASS Lounge Honolulu Airport bathrooms

We were evicted from the lounge at 1:30PM (not that we really wanted to stay longer anyway), and headed up to the food court, where we found a Pinkberry… go figure it was also closed until 2:00PM. Is there some airport wide thing I don’t know about, or…?

Honolulu Airport Pinkberry closed

We had a bit more time to kill, so we decided to stop by the nearby American Admirals Club, which we had access to thanks to my Admirals Club membership (though I’ve reviewed it before). What a great reminder why it’s important to hold a credit card with lounge access!

Boarding was scheduled for 2:05PM from gate 17, located at the far end of the concourse, so we headed in that direction at around 1:55PM.

Walking to departure gate Honolulu Airport

Once at the gate we stopped by the counter to have the agent add our Korean Air SkyPass numbers to the reservation, since we weren’t able to do so at check-in.

Honolulu Airport departure gate

The gate area was packed, and at 2:10PM they started pre-boarding (for those who need extra time, including families, which was about half the plane), and at 2:15PM started general boarding.

Honolulu Airport departure gate

IASS Lounge Honolulu Airport bottom line

This wasn’t the most impressive showing for Honolulu Airport. While I like how the airport is open air, everything else about our experience was bad, from Hawaiian’s awful check-in setup, to the long TSA Pre-Check lines, to the IASS Lounge.

Having seen Andrew’s review of the IASS Lounge at Tokyo Narita, I can’t help but admire their brilliant business model. Invite Priority Pass members to sit in a dark and outdated room while offering them almost nothing and collecting a fee for each entry. It seems like a good business model to me.

  1. This lounge is dreadful! Too bad you didn’t go to the Delta Sky Club instead, it’s by far the nicest of the US Majors with the best food and drink offerings.

  2. From Andrew’s review:

    “Keep in mind that Hawaiian grants Premier Club access to all its First and Business Class passengers”

    Of course, from his review, it seems that lounge is just as bad as the IASS one…

  3. Frequently the Pre-Check lines at DFW can be longer than the Premium lines. We’ve found that going to the Premium lines, if eligible, is almost as good as Pre-Check. You have to take your liquids/laptops out, but you don’t have to take your shoes off and they send you through the magnetometer and not the nude-o-scope.

  4. I was just there last month. One of the worst lounges I have ever been to, even worse than #66 lounge in Shanghai Pudong. Nothing to eat, no where to sit, and we had to wait 15 minutes for the lounge to open at 2pm.
    I was trying to convince my wife to keep the CSR for the lounge access, but this experience didn’t help.

  5. I transited LAX-HNL-OGG this year and also found the airport incredibly confusing. It looks straightforward on a map (all gates post security, 3 terminals, etc.) but is quite a different story once you’re there. Most of the gates/terminals were empty (no one to ask questions) and the signage was lacking, as you mention. And there were customs machines everywhere but we were never asked to put our carry ons thru.

    The one good thing was I researched ahead of time to learn that the Plumeria is the best PP lounge, hands down. But even finding that was a hassle since it said 2nd floor so we went down a level from the wiki stop (isn’t that 3rd floor?) but it was actually up there all along (had to climb the stairs and ask the customs guy).

    And anecdotally the TAs in Hawaii are ruder than mainland agents… YMMV

  6. Paying for pre-check makes sense if you’re flying inter-island even once a week and many do it more often than that. Hawaii is pretty unique in how dependent they are on air travel to travel within the state.

  7. That so-called wiki wiki shuttle experience at HNL is so bad, I usually opt out and walk instead, even when my gate is in the Diamond Head wing, which is the farthest walk from the inter-island terminal. I recommend walking to anybody without mobility issues.

    “wiki wiki” translates to speedy in Hwaiian (literally fast-fast), but in my experience it’s anything but speedy and the agent working the waiting room has no information on when to expect the next bus for your gate. I don’t think it’s the fault of the minimum wage person working that room, it’s basically the crappy way that HNL operates and treats passengers. There’s no accountability from that state agency and they just don’t give a s-h-i-t about anything. Look at the condition of OGG. As they spend $750M on a car rental facility, the terminal itself has ripped up torn seats and is in terrible condition, even as they attempt to renovate the public areas, which is more about creating more retail for the fee income it generates and not necessarily about making it nicer for pax. (I have not seen any renovation going on in the gate areas, which are a nightmare, though we have no idea if that will come later or not.)

  8. As for pre-check, I think you were probably flying at peek times. The line at OGG is usually not that bad. Last time we went through around 8pm or so, the pre-check line was pretty long and basically moving very slowly until they opened the second scanning belt. noonish – 2pm is probably the other peak time at OGG.

    I think there’s two entrances at HNL interisland terminal with pre-check, so you can try the other one if the first one is too long, but they need to do some work there to fix the security checkpoints to add more line space and more scanners/belts. That’s the meta problem there and it goes back to the horrible way the airports are run in Hawaii.

  9. Sadly, our experiences with Hawaii in general are that it is just not worth the hassle. The fellow travelers seem to be especially rude and entitled. Everything seems to unravel into a cluster.
    Seriously, Mexico can give a better, more gracious experiences at 1/4 the distance and price.
    Enough is enough.

  10. I don’t quite understand why you took a shuttle rather than just walked? Have been a few times and didn’t even know there WAS a shuttle! Always just walked from security to mainland-bound gates.

    I might have a candidate to best the IASS lounge though, try the Priority Pass offering at Venice – it is *before* security (very unhelpful, esp as no fast track pass now provided), has no snacks and only has a tiny soft drink selection if you ask the lounge host. Basically it’s some seats. Can’t believe they get a lounge entry fee for this!

  11. HNL is very dated and one almost expects Jack Lord to appear, but I love the announcements in Hawaiian

    I had a nice meal at one of the restaurants and the garden area is a blessing

    Btw the Hawaiian word for quick is wiki Very quick is wiki wiki , hence Wikipedia:)

  12. It is a very easy walk from the inter island terminal to the main terminal! No need to take a shuttle for most passengers.

    If the queues are long you also have the option of walking to the other terminal landslide and ducking through the far end security point, which has much shorter queues.

    That brings you out nearer the agreeable Tequila Bar (no point in going to a lounge at HNL).

  13. 1) The guy in the last picture looks like he’s walking the catwalk. #workitgirl #toosexy

    2) I would think a lot of leisure travelers to Hawaii have Pre-Check for their “real life” travels

    3) The lounge furniture reminds of of Blanche’s bedroom on the Golden Girls

  14. HNL worked great for us when we departed on UA for the mainland this summer. Short and easy check-in line, very short pre-check line, and then a nice five minute walk to the United Club with great views of the tarmac.

  15. One fun fact about the IASS Lounge is that it’s against the rules to bring in and consume outside food (the lounge doesn’t offer anything to eat).

  16. Accurate review of the facilities at HNL.
    The interisland terminal is finally getting the long-awaited expansion and redesign that is needed to accommodate the growth of their hometown airline into the international long-haul carrier it has become.

    Hawaiian’s inflight service is top notch. Wonderful crews and excellent service.

    In First/Business Class, the lie-flat seats have fitted mattress pads in the overhead bins… definitely make the seat very comfortable for sleeping. Auckland to Honolulu I slept for a solid 6 hours of a 10-hour flight.

  17. I couldn’t agree more regarding the insolent attitude of the Hawaiian Airline gate people I’ve dealt with for more than 20 years. I haven’t visited their lounge but the description matches what I would expect.

  18. I agree with this person’s review of Honolulu Airport, as it is chaos at the Hawaiian check-in area every time I come (I think the airport in Lihue on Kaua’i is actually more efficient). Signage is terrible and the employees don’t display the “aloha spirit.” Time to update the airport. I’m glad I didn’t try the IASS Lounge, looked bad in the review. But the Hawaiian Airlines Premier Club Lounge and The Plumeria Lounge wasn’t really that much better.

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