Honolulu International Airport (HNL) is The Hopeful Traveler’s home airport. Although unamazing compared to most modern airports and due for a needed upgrade, HNL does offer some unique features.
Among them is the Reef Runway (pictured below, press file photo) which was the world’s first major runway built entirely offshore. The 12,000-foot Reef Runway opened in October 1977 and also serves as one of the alternate landing sites for the Space Shuttle. HNL also functions as a joint military-civilian airport sharing airfield facilities with Hickam Air Force Base.
Located four miles from downtown Honolulu and nine miles from famous Waikiki Beach, HNL is served by over 20 major domestic and international carriers and is a hub for inter-island carriers Aloha Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines. The airport connects passengers to gates via the antiquated Wiki-Wiki Express (from the Hawaiian word for ‘fast’), a free shuttle that connects the three terminal buildings.
HNL opened in March 1927 as John Rodgers Airport, named after a World War I naval officer and was renamed Honolulu International Airport in 1947. Due to its proximity to the center of the Pacific Ocean, it was historically a stop for many transpacific flights to and from North America. By 1950, it was the third-busiest airport in the nation.
With the advent of ultra-long range aircraft, most transpacific flights are now able to bypass Honolulu. As such, the airport has seen a notable decrease in international passenger traffic over the years, particularly to Australia, the South Pacific and southeast Asia. However, Honolulu has continued to see major growth in the domestic market as major airlines have added frequent and even non-stop links to large, previously unserved markets such as Phoenix, Denver and Atlanta.