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With expanded pre-clearance COVID testing options, Hawaii is making it easier to visit

March 26, 2021
4 min read
With expanded pre-clearance COVID testing options, Hawaii is making it easier to visit
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Hawaii is planning a major expansion of its successful COVID-19 pre-clearance testing program for visitors to the state.

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The program allows travelers to comply with the state's Safe Travels guidelines prior to departure, and then skip mandatory airport screenings and quarantines on arrival.

Essentially, you get a special bracelet that shows you've followed the directions for entry to Hawaii.

You get a COVID-19 test from an approved company, upload the results into the state of Hawaii's portal, answer a series of questions and once you've followed all those steps you get a QR code. When you check in for your flight to Hawaii, the airline checks you've done everything right and if you have, you get a bracelet showing you're cleared for takeoff. It's sort of like getting into a special VIP room.

I was one of many travelers that participated in this program during spring break season when I got "pre-cleared" in Seattle for my flight on Alaska Airlines to Kona International Airport (KOA). Kona is still offering testing on arrival for many passengers (including me) for free, as a courtesy. But you'll still need to have a negative test taken within three days of departure to enter the state.

Alaska Airlines Hawaii Pre-Clear signage at Seattle Airport March 2021. (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

Related: Fair warning: Hawaii is crowded again

Hawaii Gov. David Y. Ige told TPG:

“We’ve had terrific cooperation from our partners, and we’re grateful to them for helping to keep everyone in Hawaiʻi safe and healthy. The pre-clearance program is particularly helpful in getting arriving passengers through the airport with no delays.”

The Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau has issued an expanded list of domestic and international carriers who are now participating:

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  • Alaska Airlines: The pre-clearance process is offered from all U.S. mainland hubs with non-stop flights to Hawaii.
  • All Nippon Airways: This airline is currently testing the process and will soon offer pre-clearance for its flights from Japan.
  • Hawaiian Airlines: More than 15 cities throughout the world, including departure cities in Japan and Korea, offer pre-clearance. Austin and other locations are coming soon.
  • Japan Airlines: Pre-clearance is currently offered for all guests out of Tokyo Haneda Airport (HND) following a successful trial run with its elite members.
  • Southwest Airlines: Southwest is offering pre-clearance service from five gateway airports in California.
  • United Airlines: Pre-clearance is offered from all U.S. mainland hubs with flights to Hawaii.
Alaska Airlines Pre-Clear bracelets (Photo courtesy Alaska Airlines)

The state's COVID-19 screening and quarantine rules have been evolving in the past few months, but the state has settled on a program that allows visitors to get a PCR test from an approved provider within three days of arrival and then skip quarantine -- for most of the islands. Kauai was an exception and had a different set of rules, but it has now joined the Safe Travels program which is likely to happen soon.

Here's TPG's complete guide to the rules to visit Hawaii. I spent three days in January on Kauai and wrote about my experiences there.

Related: Kauai expanding resort bubbles

When I went back to Oahu and Hawaii Island in March, it was a whole different experience, but generally, the pre-clearance program seems to be working well. I think people have gotten comfortable with the system and have it pretty well down. The expansion of pre-clearance programs should make it even smoother as travel picks up this summer.

Alaska Airlines Pre-Clear. (Photo courtesy Alaska Airlines)
Featured image by Honolulu March 17, 2021. (Photo by Clint Henderson:The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
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Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
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  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

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  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
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Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,300+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and the Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023