Last week, Hawaii began to welcome visitors back to its beautiful islands with its pre-travel testing program. The new program allows anyone entering the state who tests negative for COVID-19 in advance to proceed without the current two-week mandatory quarantine.
We had to see for ourselves what the first wave of travel to Hawaii was like for our guests and employees. President Ben Minicucci and other Alaska employees packed their bags, tested negative for COVID-19 and flew to the Aloha State on the very first day of the program last week. Below are their tips to make your journey as smooth as possible.
“With all the enhanced safety measures we’ve put into our Next-Level Care, when Alaska guests are ready to fly, we’re ready to take them where they want to go,” said Minicucci. “As more of our guests fly to Hawaii, it’s important to take care of one another and the islands by visiting responsibly, wearing your mask and following the state’s safety guidelines.”
1. Get tested.
Getting a negative COVID test before traveling to Hawaii is key to enjoying the islands without sitting in a hotel room for two weeks to quarantine.
“Once you find out you’re COVID-negative, the goal is to hold onto that status as long as possible before your flight—you can always run to the store to buy sunscreen when you land,” said Alaska photographer Ingrid Barrentine.
Within 72 hours of flying to Honolulu, Minicucci and others were tested for COVID-19 using Alaska’s testing providers, which offer rapid and standard COVID-19 testing — these options are available by appointment in-person, at-home, or drive-thru. If you’re making plans to travel to Hawaii, follow all travel guidelines and use a testing provider approved by the Hawaii Department of Health. Only test results from trusted partners, completed within 72 hours of travel, will be accepted in order to be exempt from the 14-day mandatory quarantine.
Steps to enter Hawaii with your test results:
Step 1: Go to Hawaii’s Safe Travels website: https://travel.hawaii.gov/#/
Step 2: Create an account and add your trip information. Within 24 hours before your flight, log back into your account to complete the state’s health questionnaire and upload a PDF of your negative COVID-19 test from one of Hawaii’s trusted testing partners. When all of that information is complete, you will receive a QR code.
Step 3: When you get off the plane and enter the gate area, your temperature will be automatically taken by a thermal screening image camera.
Step 4: Be prepared to show state officials your QR code by clicking “trips” in your Safe Travels account. You may also need this QR code when you check into your hotel.
If you must quarantine, most hotels just give out a one-time use room key to ensure visitors don’t leave their rooms until their test results come back negative, or the two-week period is complete. This policy is in place to protect the islands from the spread of COVID-19 and is a good reason to get tested before you travel!
As part of our standard flight check-in process no matter where you fly, every guest must complete a health agreement. For your safety and of those around you, the agreement confirms you have not exhibited COVID-19 symptoms in the past 72 hours, have not been in close proximity to someone who has tested positive, and will bring and wear a face covering in the airport and on board.
2. Mind your wingspan at the airport.
Most airports around the country have stepped up their safety protocols to ensure the safety of travelers and employees. At any Alaska Airlines touchpoint, we’re giving you the tools you need to feel confident about your travels such as the ability to print your bag tags, touch-free using our mobile app. You can also expect our countertops to be topped with plexiglass shields and the floors and walls to be covered with social distancing signage as a reminder to stay six feet apart.
“This was my first time flying since March and I noticed a huge difference in the amount of safety precautions since COVID happened,” said Barrentine. “Everyone was wearing a mask and sanitizer and plexiglass dividers are everywhere you look.”
3. Enjoy the flight.
Cleanliness and safety have always been our top priority, but the next level involves techniques that reduce the already low risk of onboard transmission inflight such as enhanced cleaning procedures, mandatory masks and limiting the number of guests on our flights and blocking seats through January 2021.
4. Welcome to Hawaii.
Upon arriving at Hawaii’s airports, it might feel similar to going through airport customs in Mexico or Europe. Anticipate long wait times for the arrival screening process, which vary by island.
Speed up the process: To help speed things up for you and your fellow travelers, please be sure you have uploaded your test results (PDF file) to your Safe Travels account and completed the mandatory online health questionnaire prior to your arrival.
As time goes by, the situation will continue to improve – we’re all getting better every day at managing through COVID-19 safely, with new procedures and precautions.
5. Travel responsibly.
With more people flying to Hawaii again, the islands are asking visitors to malama, to “care for” each other, for local communities and for the land. As visitors, you’re encouraged to keep one another healthy by following safe health practices like always wearing a mask in public, and to experience the destination on a deeper level—to buy local, learn about local history and culture, and give back to Hawaii.
“We love the concept of malama, which means to care for the land and to care for the people,” said Minicucci. “Caring is such a big part of what Alaska’s all about. It’s part of our core values and that’s why we’re going to take great care as we start flying more people to the islands and will work closely with local officials to make sure we’re doing the right thing and are great stewards of travel to and from Hawaii.”
During their visit, Minicucci and Alaska employees did their part to help protect and preserve Hawaii for the future by planting native trees and learning the history of the land at Gunstock Ranch on Oahu’s North Shore, in collaboration with the Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative and the Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach.
“Every time I travel to Hawaii I am inspired by the amazing natural beauty of the islands. But we are each responsible for ensuring that beauty sustains for our children, grandchildren, and the people of Hawaii,” said Alaska’s vice president of external relations, Diana Birkett Rakow. “We’re conscious as an airline about our impact, and responsible for reducing it. And if each of us as individuals brings a reusable bottle, plants trees, and supports local business, we will come out of this pandemic stronger together.”
Fly Alaska to Hawaii.
Alaska currently flies to each of the four major Hawaiian Islands with twice daily service from Seattle. On Nov. 1, Alaska’s nonstop service to Hawaii will resume from Portland, Oregon; San Jose, California; and San Diego, California. Hawaii service will begin from Anchorage, Alaska and Los Angeles on Nov. 20.
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