VIP lounge planned at Honolulu airport to accommodate foreign dignitaries

With nearly 8,000 international arrivals a day, Honolulu has one of the busiest airports in the nation.

Now, the state is planning to build a new VIP lounge at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport.

It won’t be tied to any airlines or miles reward club. In fact, most people won’t ever get to visit it.

The goal is to create a secure area where government officials and their security teams can do business and wait for flights out of the view of the general public.

Tim Sakahara, Department of Transportation spokesman, says airport staff routinely hosts visiting dignitaries.

“Foreign leaders and domestic leaders to come to Hawaii relatively often, and Hawaii actually is a major international destination,” he said. “We are fourth on the list for international arrivals in the country.”

As part of the state’s $2.7 billion modernization project, Sakahara says a secure area is going to be built to accommodate government officials and their staff.

“Sometimes especially those popular foreign leaders and dignitaries can generate a lot of attention,” Sakahara said. “So while they are going through the area and are waiting in the lounge area, you want to be able to offer them a secured area where they will be able to work and conduct meetings and continue with business.”

The project will come in at around $2.5 million to $3 million, and will be paid for using airport revenue.

Passengers like Victor Bautista say a separate, secure area for government travelers could be a good thing.

“I think so especially in this day and age with the heightened security and the travel bans and things like that, I think it’s really important that we consider that,” Bautista said.

Randy Baldemor, chief operating officer of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, also considers it a step in the right direction to stay competitive with other international airports.

“We need to continuously strive to develop a world-class airport, and I think that one component is being able to meet the needs of VIPs, high-level government officials so that they’re welcome to come here,” Baledmor said.

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