KAILUA — Gov. David Ige and state transportation officials are moving forward with plans to have Kona International Airport ready to receive international flights by the end of the year.
Department of Transportation Director Ford Fuchigami said Friday at a town hall meeting that a $4 million contract had been awarded to help build a permanent inspection station at the airport. Federal officials are requiring the airport’s current inspection station to be replaced with a permanent facility in order for it to receive flights from outside the U.S.
”We committed to Customs and Border Protection that we would replace the existing inspections facility with a permanent facility within five years,” Ige said at the Friday meeting at Hawaii Community College.
The DOT is looking to have the inspection station reopen in time to accommodate a new Hawaiian Airlines route between Kona and Tokyo. The three flights a week from Haneda International Airport, announced in May, are set to begin near the start of 2017.
Fuchigami said the DOT also plans to install 10 automatic passport control kiosks to speed up processing of international passengers. He said the airport is still working to meet other requirements related to security and staffing set by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Ige said he has been in discussions with the deputy commissioner of CBP to ensure the airport is ready to receive international flights.
”I can tell you there is a lot of interest by other carriers to fly direct to Kona,” Ige said.