Did you catch the Hawaii News Now follow-up story last week on maintenance issues at Honolulu Airport (“Residents say Honolulu Airport maintenance issues a concern“)?
According to the story, reported by Ramsay Wharton:
Travelers shared photos with Hawaii News Now that show “out of order” toilets and other problems.
One woman wondered why an “out of order” restroom at the inter-island terminal still wasn’t functioning Tuesday, when she took the first photo of the inaccessible restroom August 18.
Much of the story was devoted to presenting the views of Department of Transportation spokesman and former reporter, Tim Sakahara.
Here’s my summary of what Sakahara had to say.
Defense #1: “He said there were currently no bathrooms that were shut down completely…”
That’s good, but…I wouldn’t think that avoiding totally shut bathrooms is something to brag about, but then again, if that’s all you’ve got…
Defense #2 (paraphrased): Wait until you see our costly new airport modernization program! We’re projected to spend $2.7 billion statewide on new facilities.
That’s good, but…without an adequately planned, financed, and staffed system for repair and maintenance, it just means lot more new stuff to fall slowly into disrepair.
Defense #3: The thousands of travelers going through the airport daily makes keeping up with repairs a big job.
“Sakahara said nearly 40 custodial staff (two supervisors, 37 staff) are scheduled to clean the bathrooms throughout the day. But he added that they are short nine staff members on the graveyard shift.”
Two points to be made here. First, in most cases, it isn’t cleaning that’s the big issue. It’s the achingly slow process for repairing and replacing damaged facilities, even when the breakdowns can be predicted due to age, heavy use, etc.
And, second, there’s the “short staff” defense sneaking in, as if staffing levels are not something that is mostly within the control of the Airports Division (largely self-funded through fees, and not as heavily depending on legislative decisions as other departments).
If you would like more details about Honolulu Airport, or the rest of the state’s public airports for that matter, you might be interested in this bond statement from 2013, one of the more recent ones available. Here’s its concise description of the Honolulu Airport:
Honolulu International Airport. Honolulu International, the primary airport in the Airports System, is located approximately three miles west of downtown Honolulu. Honolulu International is the largest and busiest of the State’s airports, accounting for 59.6% of all passengers enplaned in the Airports System in fiscal year 2013. In 2009, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (the “FAA”), Honolulu International was the twenty-fifth busiest in the United States in total passengers (enplaned and deplaned). The 2012 Airports Council International Worldwide Traffic Report listed Honolulu International as the 81st busiest airport in the term of total passengers. These rankings reflect Honolulu International’s (1) large origin-destination passenger base (related to the visitor industry), (2) geographic location in the central Pacific, and (3) role as a hub for Hawaiian Airlines and Mesa Airlines (operating as go!), which provide connecting service from Honolulu International to the other Airports System primary airports. Honolulu International serves interisland flights, domestic overseas flights and international flights to destinations on the Pacific Rim, Oceania and Canada.
Honolulu International has four runways, two of which (12,000 and 12,300 feet long) are amongst the nation’s longest. In addition, it has the only reef runway in the nation (12,000 feet long by 200 feet wide). Honolulu International has 55 total gate positions, including 29 overseas aircraft gate positions with loading bridges, 13 interisland aircraft parking positions, 11 commuter aircraft parking positions and public parking spaces for 5,740 vehicles. Honolulu International also provides runways for Hickam Air Force Base and the Hawaii Air National Guard.
Bond statements like this one are full of detailed management and financial information, and a great source to get started in understanding the airport system.