Post updated: June 12, 2022
The end of your Maui vacation may feel bittersweet after spending days in the tropical sun. Still, it feels good to head home to your own bed.
There’s just one major hurdle to overcome: getting to your flight on time at Maui’s busy Kahului airport.
Since 2021, we’ve seen news reports that airport lines at Maui’s Kahului airport have gotten longer and longer, making it particularly important for travelers to get to the airport early. No one wants to dampen their dream vacation by getting stuck at the airport — even if in a dreamy place like Maui.
How early should you get to the Kahului airport before your flight home? We surveyed a group of travelers from the Facebook group Maui Bound to uncover actual wait times for trips made within the past year. Then we compared their answers to the official recommendations from airlines and the Department of Transportation.
Here’s what we discovered.
About Maui’s OGG airport
The island’s main airport may not be behemoth in size when compared to airports for other major U.S. cities. There’s just one lounge, run by Hawaiian Airlines. I peeked inside once, and it looked more like my dentist’s waiting area rather than a leisurely spot to await my departure time.
Still, Kahului Airport hosts plenty of passengers. According to the Hawaii Department of Transportation, more than six million passengers traveled through the airport terminals in 2021, making it the state’s second busiest airport in Hawaii (behind Oahu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport).
How early should I get to the Maui airport?
Get to the Kahului Airport (OGG) on Maui at least two hours before your flight’s departure if you’re flying domestically. If you’re flying internationally, three hours are recommended.
Update: For flights departing from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Alaska Airlines now recommends arriving three hours before your flight if you’re checking bags, or two hours in advance if you have carry-on luggage only.
The travelers we surveyed who departed from OGG Airport in 2022 said that getting through the security line alone could take anywhere from 5 minutes to 2 hours. According to traveler responses, mornings and late night flights generally have shorter lines. Afternoon and weekend flights tend to have longer lines.
The bottom line? Wait times at OGG airport can spike and dip suddenly, without warning. Get to the airport early to be safe — or risk getting stranded.
Our recent experience: In early June 2022, we arrived at the OGG airport at 5:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning. We had an 8:00 a.m. flight with Alaska Airlines to Seattle. After going through the agricultural inspection point and dropping off our luggage with the airline (the counter didn’t open until 6:00 a.m.), it took less than 5 minutes for us to pass through security screening using the TSA PreCheck line. The standard security line didn’t appear to have a long wait that morning, either.
These are the official recommended advance arrival times from some of the airlines that fly into Kahului Airport:
- Hawaiian Airlines recommends arriving at the check-in lobby at least 2 hours and 30 minutes prior to your flight’s departure.
- Alaska Airlines generally recommends arriving 1.5 hours to 2 hours prior to departure, the latter if you’re checking luggage or need assistance at the counter.
For flights departing between 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Alaska Airlines recommends arriving 3 hours prior to your flight if you’re checking luggage. Plan to arrive 2 hours prior to your fight if you’re carrying on your bags.
- Air Canada recommends arriving at the airport 2 hours prior to departure.
- American Airlines recommends arriving at the airport 2 hours prior to departure if flying within the U.S. and 3 hours prior to departure if flying internationally.
- Hawaii Department of Transportation recommends 3 hours for overseas flights, 2 hours for interisland flights.
How to fly out of Maui’s OGG airport: Step by step
Don’t risk missing your flight home. Know what steps to take to make it to your gate on time for a smooth journey home.
- Check into your flight up to 24 hours prior to your flight’s departure. Ideally, check in online through the airline’s website or mobile app. The alternative is to check in when you reach the terminal.
- Drop off your rental car and take the tram to the main terminal.
- Put checked luggage through the agricultural inspection and declare any agricultural items. The inspection agent will tag your bag once cleared. (Only if traveling to the U.S. mainland, Alaska, and Guam.)
- Drop off checked luggage bags at your airline’s customer service counter. If your airline has a dedicated baggage drop line, you could save time by printing your tags at an airline kiosk.
- Pass through the security screening checkpoint. If your boarding pass has a TSA PreCheck designation, use the PreCheck line.
- If you’re flying domestically to a destination outside of Hawaii, pass through the mandated agricultural screening before proceeding to your gate.
- If you have time, grab a snack or drink from one of the on-site restaurants or vendors. And pick up any last-minute souvenirs.
- Breathe a sigh of relief and relax until it’s time to board your flight.
How early you should be at the Maui airport if…
You’re dropping off a rental car
If you’re dropping off a rental car before your flight, allot around 15 to 30 minutes to get through the drop-off line. You’ll also need time to collect your luggage and take the tram to the airport’s main terminal.
You’re checking luggage and flying to the U.S. mainland, Alaska, or Guam
It can take 30 minutes to 1 hour to check your luggage. Not only will you need to put your luggage through agricultural screening, but you may need to stand in line to tag and drop off your bags with the airline representative.
Also, inquire with your airline about their luggage cutoff time. Many airlines require checked bags to be dropped off at least 45 minutes or 1 hour prior to the plane’s departure.
You’re checking luggage and NOT flying to the U.S. mainland, Alaska, or Guam
It usually takes 15 to 30 minutes, depending on how busy the lines are, to check bags in with your airline. With an international flight, your bags aren’t subject to an agricultural inspection at the Maui airport. You may check in your luggage with the airline and proceed directly to security screening.
You’re carrying on all of your luggage
You won’t have an additional wait at the luggage check-in if you’re carrying on your luggage. Proceed directly to the security screening line.
Keep in mind: For flights to the continental U.S., you’ll have to pass through an agricultural inspection point after airport security screening, just before you get to your gate. This line could slow you down if you’re rushing to your gate.
You have TSA PreCheck®
If you have a TSA PreCheck designation on your boarding pass, you may be in luck. The PreCheck line is usually (but not always!) shorter than the standard screening queue. And it tends to move faster because you don’t have to remove your shoes, liquids, or laptops like you do in the standard security screening line.
While we generally make it through the TSA PreCheck line in less than 15 minutes, heavily traveled days can push that wait time to an hour or more.
You don’t have TSA PreCheck®
The security lines at OGG airport can range anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours.
Insider tips for a stress-free departure from Maui’s OGG airport
- Consider signing up for TSA PreCheck before your trip. The TSA PreCheck line is usually shorter and faster than the standard screening line. And you can take advantage of the PreCheck benefits at many U.S. airports, not just at Kahului.
- Check into your flight before you get to the airport. You’ll be able to print your boarding pass or keep an electronic copy on your mobile device, shaving off time at the terminal.
- Long lines at the customer service counter? Use the self-serve baggage tag kiosk to tag your own luggage and drop off your bags at your airline’s dedicated drop-off line (which usually moves more quickly).
- Flying home with pineapples or coconuts? Declare any restricted items at the agricultural inspection to avoid penalties of $100 to $1,000.
- Avoid flying home on a weekend. We’ve found that the lines are longer on weekend days when compared to weekdays.
Flying out of OGG: Frequently asked questions
What time does the Maui Kahului (OGG) airport open?
Security screening opens at 5:00 a.m. The airport visitor desk opens at 7:30 a.m. Starbucks Coffee, the eatery that opens earliest, opens at 5:30 a.m.
Also, each airline has its own hours for their customer service counters. For a recent 8:00 a.m. flight, we arrived at the airport at 5:30 a.m. However, the Alaska Airlines service counter didn’t open until 6:00 a.m. for us to drop off our checked luggage.
Does Maui Kahului (OGG) airport have a TSA PreCheck® screening line?
Yes, OGG airport has a separate screening line for TSA PreCheck passengers. To locate the screening line, follow signage for “All Gates” at the airport departure terminal. Look for the TSA PreCheck flag/signage indicating which security screening line is for PreCheck passengers. Be prepared to show your boarding pass to the security agent stationed at the PreCheck line’s entrance.
To gain entry to the TSA PreCheck line for expedited screening, your boarding pass MUST bear the TSA PreCheck designation. When you book your flight, be sure to provide the airline with your member number. If you don’t have the TSA PreCheck designation on your boarding pass, you will have to go through the standard security screening line.
Can I bring pineapples on the plane home from Maui?
Yes, you can bring pineapples home. Be sure to declare your items when passing through agricultural screening.
Can I bring my lei on the plane home to the continental U.S. from Maui?
In some cases, yes. You can bring your lei home if the materials aren’t restricted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Refer to this brochure for guidelines.
Are there storage lockers at the Maui Kahului (OGG) airport?
No. For security reasons, there are no luggage storage lockers at the Kahului airport.
However, there are private companies near the Kahului OGG airport that offer luggage storage for travelers — such as Bounce.