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Masks No Longer Required At Hawaii’s Airports Or On Public Transportation

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On another sign pointing that we may be truly coming towards the end of the pandemic, the mask mandate for public transportation and airports, some of the last indoor places to require masks in Hawaii has ended. The long running mandate saw its last days after a federal judge struck down a national mandate that had been extended through May 3.

People wearing mask on a bus

The ruling had remained effective in some form or other since April 2020 as it applied to both indoors and outdoors but some exemptions were made when the number of cases dropped below alarming levels. Last May briefly oversaw the mandate lifted for outdoors. 

But recently with the advent of Omicron, which is much less deadly and highly infectious, allied with high vaccination rates have been bringing down hospitalizations despite a problematic start in late 2021/early 2022. It seems we are finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel for pandemic restrictions.

Woman receiving vaccine

Hawaii became the last state to lift the mask mandate for indoor places and travel restrictions two weeks ago. The state has been quite cautious overall when it comes to COVID-19, even having travel restrictions from American citizens coming from continental U.S. without proof of vaccination–this has now been annulled as well. 

The population and general culture of Hawaii have been generally very receptive of the mask mandates though, as a strong Asian culture influence has normalized mask-wearing in the state following the 2002 SARS outbreak in China. Thus it was not uncommon to see people wearing masks long before the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

People shopping with mask

The lifting of mask mandates in airports was swiftly followed by all public transport operators in Hawaii also lifting their mask restrictions.

Some airlines have already followed suit. Delta and Hawaiian Airlines have confirmed that masks are now optional for passengers and crew on board all domestic flights and some international routes.

Hawaiian airlines check-in in honolulu

Mask mandates have been one of the hotly debated counter pandemic measures taken during the past 2 years of the pandemic. Several groups of variable numbers were taking to the streets to demonstrate their disapproval, but the days of pandemic related social unrest finally appear to be fully behind us and this also means one less thing for travelers to worry about. 

The tourism industry has received the news with open arms and excitement, as tourism remains the archipelago’s largest economic driver. Despite the good news, it might come to you as a surprise that the local residents are not particularly fond of too many tourists returning. According to a survey completed last year during the heat of the pandemic, despite the lower number of visitors, 52% agreed to limit the number of visitors to the island. 

People walking on waikiki beach

In an interview with The New York Times, residents of Oahu said they were hoping the local government would invest more in agriculture and other things to “diversify the (Hawaiian) economy”, as the dependence of the state mostly on tourism has always been a hot topic.

This makes nothing for prospective travelers to worry about right now though, the Hawaiian tourism industry has remained resilient throughout the crisis, and now all of the restaurants, hotels, resorts and entertainment venues are back open and in full-swing, said Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association (HTLA) President and CEO, Mufi Hannemann. 

Food trucks in honolulu

The end of the mask mandate for airports, airlines and public transport concludes the end of law-enforced restrictions for tourists in Hawaii (as masks are now only required in schools and universities), some business may still enforce mask and social distancing at their own discretion, but prospective tourists can now travel to Hawaii almost as if it was pre-pandemic.

The state’s hotels are already at about 80% occupancy, according to HLTA. Considering the country’s current labor shortage affecting many sectors, especially tourism and hospitality, it is wise to book accommodations and flights in advance as much as possible if you’re planning on a summer 2022 Hawaii trip, as not only the lifting of restrictions will surely bolster the tourism on this upcoming travel season, but labor shortages are also affecting flights to the state.

Woman takes mask off in bus

Though Hawaii is a generally safe and beautiful island, you should always be cautious in this jewel of pacific. A tourist was recently declared dead while cliff diving just off the southeastern coast of the island of Kauai. Being sensitive to the local culture while respecting the regulations as a tourist can help bolster the economy of the island and make an overall better tourism experience for you.

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