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ATA Surprise On San Francisco To Honolulu(+Photos)  
User currently offlineGamps From United States of America, joined Jul 2003, 469 posts, RR: 1
Posted (11 years 5 months 3 weeks 2 days 5 hours ago) and read 11140 times:

Had a pleasant experience on ATA on my recent trip to Honolulu (on the way to Hilo), so thought I would post the trip report. Here it goes.

San Francisco to Honolulu on ATA


Boeing 757-300
Registration: N558TZ
Scheduled Departure: 10:45AM
Actual Departure: 11:00AM
Scheduled Arrival: 2:02PM
Actual Arrival: 2:00PM

I had to make a quick trip to Big Island (Hilo ITO) and our agent came up with ATA to HNL and from there Aloha Airlines to Hilo. I will restrict this trip report to ATA SFO-HNL sector with some notes on Aloha.

Day before the departure I tried to check-in at ATA.com. Though it recognized my name and reservation ID, I just got a bunch of errors and a message asking me to call ATA Customer Service. Called the Customer Service around 10PM PST no wait - and was promptly assigned the seat I requested:13A.

Check-in at San Francisco

I parked my car at International Garage G since I will be away for only couple of days and also due to the fact I had some discount coupons from my previous parking there. Took the Airtrain to Terminal 1. It was a beautiful day and had clear view of planes parked as the Airtrain zoomed around different terminals.

Lousy check-in process

Walked to ATA counter and there were may be around 15-20 folks in the queue. An agent was walking around asking for any Honolulu passengers. I showed my printouts and asked if I can use the kiosk to check-in for which she rudely replied "Computer is down, everything is down, give me the printout". And oddly enough gave a handwritten boarding pass with my name, destination and gate number written on it. When I asked if my pre-assigned seat is still good, she completely ignored me and was already shouting for other Honolulu passengers. Felt really snubbed. I can totally understand the systems being down - hardware and network fail (in fact I make a living out of these outages), but the rudeness was uncalled for.

Good show screeners - Team SFO

Anyway walked over to security what a different experience here! I really salute Team SFO - the private screeners at SFO - doing superb job. I always wanted to write about Team SFO since I fly quite a lot out of SFO and not once I have had bad experience here (both in domestic and international). Very polite and cheerful group. Really small things - wishing good morning, asking "how are you sir" etc. I really wish the TSA takes a cue out of how this is done at SFO and implement at other airports. Since we usually hear only bad things about TSA and screeners in general, I would like to recognize the great job Team SFO is doing. Whoever is managing the show here and all Team SFO employees deserve kudos! (note:most of Team SFO employees seem to be immigrants with good English BTW, before anyone jumps on it)

ATA Computer shutdown continues at the gate

Once that done, trekked all the way to Gate 31 only to be greeted by a line snaking to ATA counter. It was already 9:45AM (boarding time being 10AM). Could not resist Pete's Coffee - so after loading up with a Latte stood, in line. Agent was meanwhile started boarding announcement - something to the effect "Those who have seat listed in boarding pass, please proceed to plane". Also there was a scrolling text behind the agent saying "Upgrade to business class available on this flight. Check with the agent". The lady in front of me said that the credit card processing machine is down as well, so they are not doing it. Boo! Any idea how many planes have Business Class now? The in-flight magazine had a note about this as well.

It was almost 10 by the time I reached the agent and miraculously enough I heard her say to one of the FAs that computers are back up. I told her I have a pre-assigned 13A and without any question she gave me a boarding pass with seat number 13A. Meanwhile those without seat assignment were blocking the gate, so I had to push and go to the gate after showing my boarding pass. A cheerful agent welcomed onboard. Boarding continued with all unassigned seat holders pouring in. Luckily the load was light today with most of the middle seats being empty.

About the plane

View Large View Medium
Click here for bigger photo!

Photo © I. Gunawan

Today's plane was N558TZ, a 757-300 with "Pleasant Holidays" written. Looked quite good and clean inside. My seat 13A, for those who are not aware of ATA 757-300, is the third seat on the right once you enter the plane. To the left of the door is the lavatory - near which there are crew seats. I really don't have any reason why I like the seat 13A if someone is wondering about it  Smile

Take off

Pilot came online at this point to say that we will be departing shortly. He also mentioned we will be taking off xxx runway and flying over Southbay and then turning west - also said it is rarely we are allowed to take off like this. Anyway he asked us to be ready to watch spectacular scenery, bridges etc.

Interestingly enough the additional announcement by him asked us not to panic if we see a pilot walking to the cabin during the flight as there are additional pilots on the flight. (later during the flight one pilot did comeover and rested on seat 9 or 10)

Doors were closed - safety announcement done - and we taxied for take off. Behind us were United Express planes. We took off with the United Express plane taking off parallel to us. Was an amazing sight and I really wish I should have videographed it! (a la air-to-air shoot).

After take off pics;

Anyway pilots word turned to be wrong as we were asked to head west directly. It was a very clear and beautiful day in within few minutes we were over pacific. After 10 minutes or so pilot came online and thoroughly apologized for giving false hopes. He mentioned that due to traffic from Oakland he was asked to take off this way.

Leaving Westcoast...

Great cabin service

One of the FAs distributed headsets (free). There was also an announcement about something "Courtesy Pleasant Holidays" not sure if it was the headset or the hot towel service.

FAs came with their trolley with beverages and small snacks. There was a hot towel service as well - not sure if it was before take off or after take off. May be because we are going to Hawaii - everyone on board were cheerful - all passengers as well as FAs. Kinda festive environment! My neighbor was an East Bay lady - Hawaiiholic - if there is a word like that - and during whole length of the flight we had a good discussion on everything under the sun. She also imports wooden - tiki articrafts from, yes, where else but China - and sells it to the gullible tourists at Hawaii as souvenirs. She actually presented me a wooden tiki later!. Only thing I did not like was her condensing attitude towards native Hawaiians whom she kept labeling as lazy and "living out of govt handouts"

Meanwhile TV was playing Hawaiian videos and plugs from Pleasant Holidays. At some point the movie "I, Robot" started playing.

Now FAs came with lunch - Chicken or Cheese Pasta. I opted for Cheese and tasted pretty good. Lunch tray also had Biscotti - my favorite!


Rest of the flight was uneventful, but FAs were walking around offering water etc.

Found this mesmerizing cloud formation below us:

One hour before landing, one more round of beverage service and were offered cold towel.


As we started our descent we saw many small islands. Smooth landing and we were at Honolulu. Since I was on the left side, could see only sea till we landed. While taxiing saw tons of US Airforce and Army planes. My neighbor now went on complaining about US Defense is harming native Hawaiian sacred grounds and destroying sensitive environment etc.

At the gate - after a bunch of Aloha and Mahalo, we deplaned. After loading up with Starbucks again, I stood at the open area in the main terminal and was happy to see a plaque commemorating JRD Tata, Founder of Air India - and pioneer of aviation in India. From here Hawaiian Airlines 767s, Delta and United planes were visible. Since my flight to Hilo was from Interisland terminal, I took the Wiki Wiki bus to get there.

Aloha Airlines

Brief note on Aloha Airlines 64 (Honolulu - Hilo) and flt 47 (Hilo - Honolulu): Absolutely bad experience, from free seating to obnoxious tourists to rude FAs. Thank god these flights are short and are over before you start to suffer. Oddly enough from HNL to ITO all seats had brand new In-flight magazine, but on Flt 47 none of the seats contained the magazine!

Hilo experience

In between work, I was able to squeeze in "Volcano Adventure" helicopter ride and also a trek over the lava to reach fresh lava flow in Volcanic National Park. Walking over hardened lava is no joke! Also enjoyed the Hilo downtown. Tourist season not started in full swing, so it was not crowded anywhere. Made friends with some cool Aussies - the game cricket being the common theme!

Helicopter - open door! Also interesting registration N911FT. Lady pilot was very sweet and we had two way communication during the ride over volcano and active lava flow.

Here is a photo taken above the volcano. I took few photos, but lot of video footage.


Honolulu to San Francisco

Boeing 757-200
Registration: ******
Scheduled Departure: 10:50PM
Actual Departure: 11:00PM
Scheduled Arrival: 5:52AM
Actual Arrival: 5:10AM

Check-in again a disaster. Not sure if ATA is short of money to keep their hardware running! There were flights to SEA and SFO. I tried checking in at the kiosk, but it could not retrieve the record. One of the agents tried to help me but even he could not get it to work - so he actually went to the computer at the regular check-in counter and printed the boarding pass for me. Seat number:14F.

Security was quick, but TSA at HNL was grumpy compared to Hilo screeners - difference in attitude from their SFO peers very visible.

Gate 19 was our gate. After some last minute shopping went to the gate at 10PM. Fantastic gate - with a huge hall with pleasant lighting, airconditioning and dedicated toilets to just this gate! I believe these are usually used for International departures. Excellent seats as well.

Boarding mess Flight was completely full and looks like check-in was messed up as well as several people crowded the agents at the gate. During boarding process it turned out they have issued Multiple boarding passes to same seats, and at the end they ended up sending some people out of the plane - not a happy bunch. I was just amazed how despite all the technology, ATA messes up the boarding process.

Otherwise flight was uneventful - pilot announced that we will be arriving at SF half an hour early due to good winds - we received our dinner snacks once seat belt sign was off, but many were already sound asleep. I woke up only when we started our descent to SFO. Clear sky and sun still to rise, San Francisco looked beautiful from the top. But traffic on San Mateo Bridge was already good, but beautiful setting anyway.


All in all, I think ATA has a good product on SFO - HNL sector. I have used UA, Delta on SFO - HNL; and AA on SJC - HNL earlier. With all the stuff going on at ATA, I think crew are doing a great job. Check-in process can be better and the SFO check-in staff definitely need some customer service training - considering most of HNL travelers are going there for vacation and being shouted at is definitely not a way to send someone off on a vacation! I am not sure they are ATA employees or hourly agents?

Feel free to post your comments and questions.


7 replies: All unread, jump to last
User currently offlineJjbiv From United States of America, joined Jan 2001, 1226 posts, RR: 5
Reply 1, posted (11 years 5 months 3 weeks 1 day 21 hours ago) and read 10735 times:


Thank you for posting your trip report. It's been a good while since there has been a new ATA report in this forum.

Regarding the computer issues, I'm guessing you flew about two weeks ago. If that is the case, we had major (company-wide) issues with out frame relay WAN links. As you would imagine, that killed every technology-based solution we had. Nothing like reverting back to old ways to create a little chaos  Laugh out loud Other than that scenario, you may have just caught SFO and HNL on bad days; the computers go down everywhere once in a while. We use SABRE for passenger processing and their system, in general, is bullet proof. Things generally work well.

SFO employees are employed by ATA. Employees in SFO have a reputation system-wide for being a little "rough around the edges," but everyone I've met from the station is top-notch. The Bay Area has an astronomical cost of living, and working for ATA isn't a sure path to riches, so turnover is quite high. Quite a few of the employees there are native foreigners (representative of the diversity in California); all of these factors may play in to the final result you see as a customer. HNL agents are AQ employees, I believe (they might be HA.)

Roughly half the fleet has Business Class; a higher proportion of the 753s has the reconfiguration due to their typical stage length being longer and, hence, a higher priority for adding a premium cabin. Only one 752 has the new cabin and I believe almost exactly half of the 738s have been redone.

I'm glad you had a good experience and hope ATA will continue to earn your business. Despite the diversions, I think everyone on the front lines is working harder than ever before to turn out a good product these days.


User currently offlineHawaiian717 From United States of America, joined May 1999, 3241 posts, RR: 6
Reply 2, posted (11 years 5 months 3 weeks 1 day 9 hours ago) and read 10374 times:

It is AQ employees that handle the ATA flights at HNL. As far as I know, HA doesn't usually handle other airlines.

David / MRY

User currently offlineJohnboy From United States of America, joined Aug 1999, 2664 posts, RR: 6
Reply 3, posted (11 years 5 months 3 weeks 1 day 4 hours ago) and read 10238 times:

I enjoyed my ATA flights SFO-CUN-SFO back in September, but my God...that "salad...."

Nice report, although i can't quite make out your pix very well. Sorry to hear about all those computer snafu's though. Sad to hear about ATA in general.

User currently offlineJetBlast From United States of America, joined Nov 2004, 1232 posts, RR: 9
Reply 4, posted (11 years 5 months 2 weeks 3 days 20 hours ago) and read 9698 times:

Very nice Gamps! I especially like the photos of the volcano and the cloud formation! Beautiful!

JetBlast @ BWI  Smile/happy/getting dizzy

Speedbird Concorde One
User currently offlineGamps From United States of America, joined Jul 2003, 469 posts, RR: 1
Reply 5, posted (11 years 5 months 1 week 2 days 20 hours ago) and read 9129 times:

Thanks all for your comments.

Jjbiv: You are right on the timing and WAN links being down. So I guess I just hit a wrong days when they were down.

Anyway given a choice I would travel them again - as service was in fact better than the supposed "full fledged" carriers.

User currently offlineUafan17 From United States of America, joined Mar 2004, 120 posts, RR: 0
Reply 6, posted (11 years 5 months 1 week 6 hours ago) and read 8747 times:

Great report, a few years back during the chicago blizzard of 99 we got stuck in SFO and the ATA agent at the check in called my mom a B***h and my mom got so pissed she called NBC as so did many other p'd offf olks.

User currently offlineJjbiv From United States of America, joined Jan 2001, 1226 posts, RR: 5
Reply 7, posted (11 years 5 months 6 days 20 hours ago) and read 8689 times:

LOL. Well, was your mom being a bitch? All too often people forget that agents are only humans. I had to remind a customer's mother of this just last night. Being nice to me may not get you everything you want, but it will get you a lot closer to where you want to be. Of course, I also have an obligation to treat you professionally in turn.

I do NOT control the weather -- unless it’s nice  Smile/happy/getting dizzy

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