Kona International Airport

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Kona International Airport at Keāhole


KOA is located in Hawaii
Location of the Kona International Airport
Airport type Public
Operator Hawaii Department of Transportation
Serves Kailua-Kona, Hawaii
Location Kalaoa, Hawaii
Hub for
Elevation AMSL 47 ft / 14 m
Coordinates 19°44′20″N 156°02′44″W / 19.73889°N 156.04556°W / 19.73889; -156.04556 (Kona International Airport)Coordinates: 19°44′20″N 156°02′44″W / 19.73889°N 156.04556°W / 19.73889; -156.04556 (Kona International Airport)
Website hawaii.gov/koa
Direction Length Surface
ft m
17/35 11,000 3,353 Asphalt
Statistics (2010)
Aircraft operations 124,889
Cargo (U.S. tons) 28,510
Passengers 2,649,493

Kona International Airport at Keāhole (IATA: KOAICAO: PHKOFAA LID: KOA) is on the Island of Hawaiʻi, in Kalaoa CDP, Hawaiʻi County, Hawaiʻi, United States.[3] The airport serves leeward, or Western Hawaiʻi island, including the town of Kailua-Kona and the resorts of the North Kona and South Kohala districts.


Much of the runway is built on a relatively recent lava flow: the 1801 Huʻehuʻe flow from Hualālai. This flow extended the shoreline out an estimated 1 mi (1.6 km), adding some 4 km2 (1.5 sq mi) of land to the island[4] and creating Keāhole Point. The new airport opened on July 1, 1970, with a single 6,500-foot (2.0 km) runway; the previous smaller airstrip was converted into the Old Kona Airport State Recreation Area.

Construction crews from Bechtel Corporation had used three million pounds of dynamite to flatten the lava flow (which was riddled with Lava tubes) within 13 months.

In its first full year, 515,378 passengers passed through the new open-air tropical-style terminals. The aquaculture ponds and solar energy experiments at the nearby Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority (NELHA) can be seen during landing and take-off.

It was originally known as Ke-āhole Airport, since the ʻāhole fish (Kuhlia sandvicensis) was found nearby.[5][6]

Runway extension to 11,000 feet was in 1994, making it the largest in the Hawaiian Islands after Honolulu. It became Keāhole-Kona International Airport in 1993;[7] in 1997 it became the Kona International Airport at Keāhole.

Japan Airlines' Kona-Tokyo flight that started in 1996 ended in 2010, so Hawaii Island's only scheduled international flight is to Vancouver.[8] Hawaiian Airlines filed an application with the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) for nonstop flights from Kona to Tokyo's Haneda Airport restoring the link between the two cities after Japan Airlines ended flights to Narita Airport in 2010.[9] The US Department of Transportation (USDOT) rejected the airline's application despite support from residents of west Hawaii.[10] On October 23, 2013, Hawaiian Airlines announced that they will re-apply to the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) for nonstop Kona-Haneda flights a year after the airline was rejected to fly that route in favor of Delta's Seattle to Haneda nonstop.[11]

Facilities and aircraft[edit]

The airport's former control tower. (Demolished in 2014)

Kona International at Keahole Airport covers 2,700 acres (1,100 ha) at an elevation of 47 feet (14 m) above mean sea level. It has one asphalt runway, 17/35, 11,000 by 150 feet (3,353 x 46 m).[1]

The state government of Hawaiʻi facility operates a runway and a terminal complex of single story buildings along the eastern edge of the airfield for passengers, air cargo and mail, airport support, and general aviation.

Kona International is the only remaining major airport in the Hawaiian Islands where a mobile ramp is used to plane and deplane passengers. Kona International sees daily 717, 737, 757, 767, and 777 aircraft, as well as smaller inter-island aircraft, and general private aviation. The airport terminal is a rambling, open-air set of structures. Long after other airports in Hawaiʻi converted their terminals to multi-story buildings with automated jetway systems, Hawaiian Airlines could still utilize their DC-9 fleet's tailcone exits at Kailua-Kona.

An environmental impact statement was prepared in 2005 to add a second runway. The United States Air Force investigated building a second 3,950 ft (1,200 m) runway in 2009. This would be used for practicing landing C-17 military cargo planes on a short runway.[12] Although the 11,000 ft (3,353 m) runway allows flights to Japan and Chicago, it is the only major airport in Hawaii with a single runway.

In the year ending May 31, 2007 the airport had 150,624 aircraft operations, an average of 412 per day: 50% general aviation, 22% scheduled commercial, 15% air taxi, and 13% military. 59 aircraft were then based at this airport: 68% single-engine, 14% multi-engine, 14% helicopter, 2% glider and 3% ultralight.[1]

The airport has two gate areas: Terminal "1" has gates 1–5 with Baggage Claim A [13] Terminal "2" has gates 6–10 with Baggage Claim B .

Airlines and destinations[edit]

Passengers boarding a Hawaiian Airlines Boeing 717.
A United Airlines Boeing 757-200 taxiing shortly after landing.
Airlines Destinations Terminal
Air Canada Seasonal: Vancouver 1
Alaska Airlines Oakland, San Diego,[14] San Jose (CA), Seattle/Tacoma
Seasonal: Anchorage,[15] Portland (OR)[16]
American Airlines Los Angeles 2
Delta Air Lines Los Angeles, Seattle-Tacoma (begins December 19, 2015)[17] 2
Hawaiian Airlines Honolulu, Kahului
Seasonal: Los Angeles,[18] Oakland [19]
Kona Shuttle
operated by KaiserAir
Charter: Oakland 1
Mokulele Airlines Kahului, Kapalua 1
ʻOhana by Hawaiian
operated by Empire Airlines
Kahului[20] 2
United Airlines Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco 1
US Airways Phoenix 1
WestJet Vancouver 1

Top destinations[edit]

Top ten busiest domestic routes out of KOA
(Dec 2013 – Nov 2014)
Rank City Passengers Carriers
1 Honolulu, HI 686,000 Hawaiian
2 Los Angeles, CA 207,000 American, Delta, Hawaiian, United
3 Kahului, HI 128,000 Hawaiian, Mokulele
4 San Francisco, CA 110,000 United
5 Seattle, WA 83,000 Alaska
6 Phoenix, AZ 47,000 US Airways
7 Oakland, CA 39,000 Alaska, Hawaiian
8 Portland, OR 24,000 Alaska
9 San Jose, CA 23,000 Alaska
10 Denver, CO 8,000 United

Accidents and incidents[edit]

  • On August 25, 1977 an Air Cargo Hawaii twin-turboprop Short SC.7 Skyvan crashed and burned while attempting to land at Keahole Airport. The pilot and passenger were killed. The crash occurred about 1.5 mi (2.4 km) short of the runway.[22]
  • On September 10, 1989 the pilot of an Aero Commander 680 was making an emergency landing on runway 17 due to loss of power in the right engine. He crashed about 0.25 mi (0.4 km) southwest of the runway. One fatality and one serious injury.[23]

Onizuka Space Center[edit]

A small museum, the Astronaut Ellison S. Onizuka Space Center, is located between the passenger terminals at the airport.[24] It is named in honor of Kona-born Ellison Onizuka who died in 1986 on the Space Shuttle Challenger. The displays include a sample of lunar soil, a space suit from Apollo 13, and personal items from Ellison Onizuka. An admission fee is charged.[25]

Impact of Kona Airport on Hawaii Island[edit]

Prior to the 1970 airport expansion, tourism was centered on Hawaii's East side and the town of Hilo. Tourists to the Kona side of the Island typically flew into Hilo and drove across the island. As recently as 1968 Kona Village Resort didn't have road access let alone a large airport,[26] despite completion of the Royal Kona Resort in 1968.[27]

When the airport opened in 1970, it helped accelerate a shift of tourism from East Hawaii to West Hawaii. Tourism in Hilo had already taken a hit when a tsunami destroyed all seaside hotels in 1960.[28]

The full extent of the airport's impact and shift in tourism can be seen in Hawaii Island Strategic Plan for 2006 to 2015. By 2005 the percentage of accommodations on the West side increased to 86% of the total. In 2005 just 4 modest hotels continued to serve the East side of Hawaii, with 3 of them dating back to the 1960s[29]

Tourism has helped fuel Hawaii County's overall population growth. Between 1990 and 2010 the population increased 48%.[30]

Future development[edit]

Kona Airport's master plan, completed in 2010, calls for a second runway while keeping the option to extend the airport's primary runway to 12,000 feet if required. A second-level concourse with jetways would be built to facilitate overseas flights.[31]

Work is in progress to combine the existing terminals into one space as well as adding a second story to the terminals complex. This second terminal will serve overseas and international passengers. When not in international use the new gates, accessed via jet bridge from the second story, will be used for interisland flights. The location of the second story will be on the west side of the current terminal locations, serving to physically connect the two terminals. For this to happen, the Ellison S. Onizuka Space Center will have to be relocated.


  1. ^ a b c FAA Airport Master Record for KOA (Form 5010 PDF). Federal Aviation Administration. Effective July 29, 2010.
  2. ^ Kona Airport – Statistics
  3. ^ "Kalaoa CDP, Hawaii." U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved on May 21, 2009.
  4. ^ http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov/volcanowatch/1997/97_07_25.html Fishponds versus lava flows, USGS, 1997
  5. ^ Mary Kawena Pukui, Samuel Hoyt Elbert and Esther T. Mookini (2004). "lookup of keahole ". in Place Names of Hawai'i. Ulukau, the Hawaiian Electronic Library, University of Hawaii Press. Retrieved September 21, 2010. 
  6. ^ John R. K. Clark (2004). "lookup of keahole ". in Hawai'i Place Names: Shores, Beaches, and Surf Sites. Ulukau, the Hawaiian Electronic Library, University of Hawaii Press. Retrieved September 21, 2010. 
  7. ^ Kona Airport master plan official web site
  8. ^ Last JAL Kona-to-Tokyo flight lands on Big Island[1]
  9. ^ http://finance.yahoo.com/news/hawaiian-finishes-application-tokyo-kona-170324789.html;_ylt=A2KLOzH6nWNQ4xEAS_fQtDMD
  10. ^ http://westhawaiitoday.com/sections/news/local-news/dot-rejects-hawaiian-airlines%E2%80%99-request-kona-haneda-service.html
  11. ^ "Hawaiian Airlines applying for flights to Haneda". West Hawaii Today. October 23, 2013. Retrieved October 23, 2013. 
  12. ^ "Air Force looks to add another runway at Kona airport" in West Hawaii Today, May 16, 2009
  13. ^ kona-airport-terminal-large.gif
  14. ^ http://www.10news.com/news/alaska-airlines-to-soon-have-san-diego-to-kona-flights
  15. ^ http://finance.yahoo.com/news/alaska-airlines-adds-seasonal-between-150000404.html;_ylt=A2KJ3CZ7dtdPXVUAYZ_QtDMD
  16. ^ "Alaska Airlines Announces New Hawaii And Mexico Flying; Horizon Air Adds San Jose-Los Angeles Service" (Press release). Alaska Airlines. April 22, 2010. Retrieved April 22, 2010. 
  17. ^ http://worldairlinenews.com/2015/02/22/delta-to-add-new-hawaii-service-from-both-seattletacoma-and-portland/
  18. ^ "Hawaiian Airlines Expands Los Angeles Service Next Summer" (Press release). Hawaiian Airlines. October 17, 2013. Retrieved October 17, 2013. 
  19. ^ http://www.mercurynews.com/business/ci_23778472/hawaiian-airlines-adding-more-oakland-flights?source=rss
  20. ^ "'Ohana by Hawaiian Expands its Network to Include Maui" (Press release). Hawaiian Airlines. June 12, 2014. Retrieved June 12, 2014. 
  21. ^ http://www.transtats.bts.gov/airports.asp?pn=1&Airport=KOA&Airport_Name=Kona,%20HI:%20Keahole&carrier=FACTS
  22. ^ http://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=19770825-0
  23. ^ http://www.ntsb.gov/ntsb/brief.asp?ev_id=20001213X29401&key=1
  24. ^ Onizuka Space Center official web site
  25. ^ Onizuka Space Center on Hawaii Museum Association web site
  26. ^ Kona Village Resort on Fodor web site
  27. ^ Royal Kona Resort History on Destination 360 web site
  28. ^ The Great Hilo Tsunami on UC Davis web site
  29. ^ Hawaii Island Strategic Plan for 2006 to 2015 County of Hawaii web site
  30. ^ Hawaii Population Growth Kailua Kona US Census web site
  31. ^ "KOA Airport Master Plan Update (Final), Chapter 5". http://www.kona-airport.com. October 2010. Retrieved June 28, 2011. 

External links[edit]