The incredible island of Maui certainly has it all- stunning beaches, exciting water sports, the spectacular Haleakala Crater, and so much more. And if you're headed to the Valley Isle, you're likely to make your way through the Kahului Airport (OGG).
Situated 2.5 miles east of the town of Kahului, Kahului Airport gets high marks from travelers for its partially open-air design, ease of navigation, and the friendliness of its employees, from retail staff to TSA agents. One person even said that OGG is 'the friendliest airport in the world'! So what makes Kahului Airport so special? First, let's take a peek at the facility's history and work our way up to the present day.
Back in 1927, the Territorial Legislature designated monies for land acquisition for an airstrip and part of a commercial sugar operation was purchased in Maalaea. After the area was cleared, the airport consisted of a small dirt field and was not able to be used in wet weather conditions. By 1935, 16-passenger Sikorsky S-43's were added to the fleet scheduled to land there, but the site was inadequate. In 1936, studies were conducted and a new airport site was designated, which would later be known as Puunene Airport. Two years later, the original Maalaea site was condemned. The Puunene Airport was expanded and improved upon until the beginning of World War II, at which point it was placed under military control.
During the war, the facility was enlarged and modified to accommodate military operations. However, the heavy demands of the war rendered the Puunene Airport inadequate to solely meet the military's requirements in the area. Therefore, another airport site was chosen near Kahului and additional sugar cane lands were acquired. Construction on the new project began in 1942 and it became known as the Naval Air Station at Kahului.
Following the war, the Territory began to operate commercial airports on a large scale in 1946. No additional improvements were made to the Puunene Airport, as the Naval Air Station at Kahului was determined to be better suited for commercial use. One year later, the Navy returned control of the Kahului Airport to the Territory. In 1951, after extensive negotiations, all commercial airline services were officially transferred from Puunene to Kahului and a modernization program was swiftly undertaken. June 1952 saw the facility undertake commercial airline operations. Expansions, modifications, and upgrades have continuously taken place since that time.
Today, the Kahului Airport covers 1,391 acres on the northern edge of land between Haleakala and the West Maui Mountain Range and hosts commuter planes, air taxis, scenic tour operations, and general aviation operations, including a separate location for helicopters. Approximately 7,000 passengers per day utilize the airport. Some of the carriers that service the facility include American, Delta, Virgin America, Hawaiian Airlines, Air Canada, United, Alaska Airlines, and Mokulele Airlines.
Kahului Airport has a number of amenities for the comfort and convenience of travelers: newsstand, bar and grill, jewelry shop, souvenir shops, lei shops, coffee shops, several ATMs, and a snack wagon. There are also Visitor Information Staff available to assist travelers with questions or concerns they may have.
There are several options to get to or from Kahului Airport. Taxis are located in front of the baggage claim area and are readily available. Renting a car is another easy option, as there are eight rental car companies on the grounds, in a building just past the end of baggage claim. The car rental shuttles stop right behind this building. There is also an airport shuttle service which operates one-way and round-trip services between the airport and several hotels. The Shuttle Service Counter can be found in the baggage claim area. Additionally, several pre-arranged ground transportation providers service the airport.
If you'll be taking public transportation, there are bus stops along the front of the terminal; however, service is somewhat limited. Ample public parking is available across from the passenger terminal. The cell phone lot is located curbside along Hemaloa Street and is free of charge for up to an hour. In addition, there are reserved spaces for electric cars in the main lot, as well as a vehicle charging station. Parking for these vehicles is free with designated electric vehicle plates.
Kahului Airport is accessible to travelers with disabilities. Porter Service is available per request and there are elevators to the second floor. Designated accessible parking spaces are available and load/unload zones are reserved for those with a placard. There are also TT's for the deaf and hard of hearing. Of course, guide/service dogs are always welcomed. And although most of the ground transportation options are accessible, it is recommended to call ahead to ensure availability.
And we know you must be wondering why the Kahului Airport code is OGG. Well, it was so dubbed to honor aviation pioneer Bertram J. Hogg, who is nothing short of a local legend. His beginnings in the aviation industry were humble, as he was hired as an airline mechanic helper in 1930- that airline later became Hawaiian Airlines. By 1934, Hogg was flying the first inter-island mail delivery flights and was even training others to do the same. Hogg worked his way up- from flying the most primitive of planes all the way to DC-9 jets. He also became the Director of Flight Operations for Hawaiian Airlines. Also of note in his career: soon after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Hogg bravely carried important military officials between the islands; doing so without the help of instruments, as navigation aids had been disabled after the attack. Due to his pioneering spirit and bravery, Maui paid homage to him through the 'OGG' designation in 1946. Make sure to stop near Gate 19 to check out the exhibit that beautifully illustrates Mr. Hogg's career and legacy. And as did Mr. Hogg's career, the Kahului Airport is only getting more impressive over time. Since 2006, several important projects have been completed to improve the facility, and many more are either currently underway or part of a long-term modernization program.
We hope you have occasion to witness the positive changes and friendly faces Maui's Kahului Airport has to offer- it's sure to be the first of many a pleasant surprise on the Valley Isle.